Following the finding of the spies who shared American atomic secrets with the Soviet Union (read more here), the “Red Scare” was sweeping over 1950s Cold War America. And Cold War espionage was not going away. Here Scott Rose explains how Rudolf Abel’s New York-based Soviet spy ring was discovered in 1957.

A Soviet stamp from 1990 commemorating Rudolf Abel.

A Soviet stamp from 1990 commemorating Rudolf Abel.

The United States broke the Soviet atomic spy ring in the early 1950s, after the USSR had already accomplished its goal of acquiring the American information its scientists needed to build an atomic weapon. However, this was not the end of Cold War espionage between the two superpowers; in fact, it was barely the beginning. Both countries used every available method to find out each other’s plans and secrets, and in the process, many participants in this game either died, were sent to prison, or were ruined personally and politically.

When atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried, convicted and executed, they never admitted guilt or gave up any of their contacts. One of their contemporaries in New York was running a Soviet spy ring of his own, which he built for seven years after the Rosenbergs were arrested.


An Espionage Artist

In 1948, an artist and photographer named Emil Goldfus rented a small studio in Brooklyn. While his artistic talents were average at best, Goldfus had a talent for espionage that was anything but average. Mr. Goldfus was actually a Soviet KGB colonel named Rudolf Abel, and he had been one of the Soviet Union’s greatest spies during World War II. Proficient in Russian, English, Polish, German, and Yiddish, Abel was a uniquely versatile spy. He had perfectly impersonated a German military officer and was able to give the Red Army valuable information on German troop movements.

Abel came to New York in 1948, and he quickly built a spy network in America. In addition to his new espionage contacts, he made friends among other artists, who never had any reason to suspect him as being anyone other than who he said he was. Abel would sometimes leave town for weeks at a time, which his friends attributed to his eccentric, bohemian personality. 

By 1954, Abel had built a large spying operation, and his methods of transmitting coded messages included placing microfilm inside of hollowed-out bolts, coins, and pencils. The Soviets decided Abel needed an assistant, to which he objected. Nevertheless, the Soviets sent an agent named Reimo Hayhanen to help Abel in New York. Abel quickly found his assistant to be completely incompetent, but tried his best to make an effective spy out of Hayhanen. A year later the KGB was concerned that Abel was becoming exhausted, and recalled him to the USSR for six months of vacation. When Abel returned to Brooklyn, he found his operation in shambles. Hayhanen had been extremely careless, and had spent much of the network’s finances on alcohol and prostitutes. By 1957, Abel had had enough, and demanded that his assistant be recalled to the Soviet Union. Hayhanen received his recall orders, and panicked, fearing he would be executed upon arriving in Moscow. He made it as far as Paris, where he walked into the American embassy, telling his story and pleading for asylum. At first, the CIA suspected Hayhanen was drunk, and he may very well have been. However, they decided to verify the information he had given them, and realized he was telling the truth.

When Hayhanen didn’t arrive in Moscow, the Soviets knew right away that he had defected. Abel was recalled, but didn’t make it out of the United States. Just before he was scheduled to leave, the FBI arrested him at a hotel in New York. He knew he was caught when an FBI agent addressed him as “Colonel.” Ever the professional, Abel didn’t say a word when he was arrested, simply staring ahead. However, Abel had not disposed of the evidence in his studio before he attempted to leave the United States, a surprising error for a spy as seasoned as Abel. When the studio was raided, the FBI realized it had found a goldmine of information. All sorts of spying and transmission equipment were found in the studio, but most importantly, there were photos of Soviet agents in the USA, along with lists of their names. Within weeks, Abel’s entire network of spies was shut down.


The Client Nobody Wanted to Represent

Abel was charged with espionage, and his next predicament was that there were hardly any defense attorneys in America that wanted to represent him. In the late 1950s, the United States was dealing with the lingering effects of the Rosenberg case as well as the “Red Scare” that had been whipped up by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had had ruined many careers by accusing people in all parts of American government and culture of having communist leanings. Not many lawyers, especially ones with political ambitions, could afford to be seen defending a KGB colonel in court. Eventually, the US government found an attorney willing to take on the case. James Donovan, who had previously worked for the American OSS (the precursor to the CIA), agreed to represent Abel. This would seem quite ironic, but Donovan actually did everything he could to defend his client.

When the case went to trial, it probably would not have mattered who his lawyer was, as the evidence against Rudolf Abel was massive and undeniable. In essence, Donovan knew Abel was probably going to be convicted. His main objective at this point was to keep Abel from getting the death penalty, as the Rosenbergs had. He succeeded in this; when the court found Abel guilty, his life was spared in favor of a 30-year prison sentence. Donovan was not finished though, appealing the case to the US Supreme Court. He argued that the evidence from the studio, by which Abel was convicted, had been obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld Abel’s conviction, and he was sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta to begin his sentence.

While in prison, Abel kept himself busy with intellectual activities, such as painting and playing chess. Some days, he even passed the time by writing out tables of mathematical logarithms. Abel befriended several other convicted spies, including the Rosenbergs’ former accomplice, Morton Sobell. A couple of years after beginning his sentence, events on the other side of the globe would begin to work in Abel’s favor.

The FBI mugshot of Rudolf Abel after his arrest in 1957.

The FBI mugshot of Rudolf Abel after his arrest in 1957.

Gary Powers and the U-2 Incident

In 1960, the Soviets claimed to have shot down an American U-2 spy plane that was performing reconnaissance over the USSR. The pilot, Gary Powers, had ejected and survived, but was captured and brought to trial. The trial was designed to be a major propaganda victory, but it turned into an embarrassment for the Soviets. Powers admitted piloting a spy plane, adding that he had been flying reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union for the past four years. He also told the court that his plane was not shot down at all; the U-2 had suffered a flame-out that had forced him to eject.  When the trial ended in August 1960, Powers was sentenced to ten years in a Soviet prison.

James Donovan, who had represented Rudolf Abel at his trial, recognized the opportunity to free both Abel and Powers. He orchestrated a prisoner exchange with the Soviets, who were eager to get Abel back. In February of 1962, Abel was released to the Soviet Union after serving only four years of his sentence. Likewise, Gary Powers was returned to the United States, where after retiring from the Air Force, he became a test pilot, as well as a helicopter traffic reporter for a Los Angeles television station. The prisoner exchange took place on the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin. As part of the swap, an American student named Frederic Pryor was released from the custody of the East Berlin police. In August of 1961, Pryor had been arrested and held by the East Germans, on the false suspicion that he was a spy for the CIA.

The Soviets treated Abel well when he returned, as he had been a valuable Cold War operative before being brought down by a bumbling assistant. He continued working for the KGB, even giving speeches to Soviet schoolchildren about intelligence operations. Just as Morris and Lona Cohen (two of the American atomic spies) were commemorated on Soviet postage stamps, Abel was honored on a stamp in 1990, one year before the fall of the Soviet Union. However, Abel’s luck had run out long before; after a lifetime of chain smoking, he died of lung cancer in 1971.

The story of the prisoner exchange was portrayed in the 2015 film Bridge of Spies.Frederic Pryor, who is still alive, went to see the film and claimed to have enjoyed it, while considering it to be over-dramatized. Pryor told a fellow moviegoer that the film had many inaccuracies, and the other person replied by asking Pryor, “How do you know that?” Pryor answered, “I’m Frederic Pryor.”


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


Chester B. Hearn, Spies & Espionage: A Directory, Thunder Bay Press, 2006

James B. Donovan, Strangers On A Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel, Atheneum House, 2015

Ryan Dougherty, “Economist Frederic Pryor Recounts Life as a ‘Spy’”, Swarthmore College News & Events, October 21, 2015

Giles Whittell, Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War, Broadway Books, 2010

World War Two nurse Reba Z. Whittle is a unique and all-too often forgotten World War Two nurse. As well as helping many troops with their injuries, she became a Prisoner of War in Germany. Here, Matt Goolsby continues his series on Nurses in War and tells her extraordinary story (following articles on US Civil War nurses Clara Barton (here) and Cornelia Hancock (here), and World War One nurse Julia Catherine Stimson (here)).

American World War Two nurse Reba Z. Whittle. Source: US Air Force, available  here .

American World War Two nurse Reba Z. Whittle. Source: US Air Force, available here.

The World of the 1930s

Leading up to World War II, the world had already seen significant conflict.

World War I or the ‘Great War’ along with the stock market crash of 1929 had plunged the global economy into a ‘Great Depression’. These were nicknamed ‘Great’ events because of their worldwide impacts.

Along with the ‘Great Depression’, China had been deluged by massive flooding and America was suffering from a suffocating drought. China was also becoming a hotspot of war on the Asian continent as the Japanese were expanding their territorial conquests during the Manchurian invasion of 1931.

There was trouble again brewing in Europe with fascism on the rise. Francisco Franco in Spain, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Adolf Hitler in Germany were all making overtures of war or were prosecuting it in their respective nations.

By this time, air travel had become more commonplace as had automobiles throughout the entire world. The first inter-continental flight had taken place and travel between continents was quicker and easier than ever before.

Telecommunications were now truly trans-continental and many enjoyed radio as well as early television entertainment daily from studios such as NBC, CBS, and the Blue network.

US Army nurses were professionals in their own right by this time and had become essential participants and  dubbed ‘Angels’ by those cared for by them.


Nurses as captives

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, for the first time ever, five Navy Nurses were taken captive by the Japanese on Guam on December 10th, 1941. These five were fortunate as they were repatriated to Mozambique, Portuguese South Africa in August of 1942.

Nurses had been casualties of war since the Spanish-American conflict, but none had ever been taken captive. All told, 68 Army and 16 Navy nurses were taken captive during World War II.

Other Army and Navy nurses taken captive in The Philippines were not as fortunate as those who had been repatriated to Mozambique.

The Japanese began their assault the day after their Pearl Harbor attack and by April of 1942 had captured Bataan, the prelude of the ‘Bataan Death March’.

When Corregidor fell to Japanese forces on May 6th, 1942, 11 Navy and 66 Army nurses had been captured and were later interred that Summer at Santo Tomas Internment Camp which had previously been the University of Santo Tomas.

The nurses who were captured were fortunate that they were transferred to internment on April 8th, 1942, just two days before the infamous Bataan Death March started that had driven American and Filipino prisoners close to seventy miles on foot and was the scene of numerous atrocities.

On a personal note, one of my uncles was taken captive and forced to march to Bataan. He was never the same once liberated, but was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

The ‘Angels of Bataan’ as they were referred to by the men or the ‘Battling Belles of Bataan’, survived in captivity for three years without losing a single nurse and were liberated by American forces on February 2nd, 1945.


Battle Tested

In the European theater, a brave young woman named Reba Z. Whittle made history that is little known to this day.

Reba Zitella Whittle was born in Rocksprings, Texas on August 19, 1919.  Destined to have a lasting impact, she applied for an appointment as a Reserve Army nurse after graduating from the Medical and Surgical Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in San Antonio, Texas in June 1941.

Having spent a year in college as a Home Economics major at North Texas State College, Reba was better educated and a little older than other applicants of the Army Reserve Nurse Corps.

She was initially denied an appointment as she was 5’7” and only 117 pounds. The requirement was actually seven pounds heavier but was waived due to her educational qualifications. She was advised to diet and rest to increase her weight.

Her initial appointment to the Army Reserves came with orders in June of 1941 that stated: “Assigned to active duty with the Army of the United States for a minimum period of one-year, effective June 17, 1941, and will continue on this status until relieved for the convenience of the Government or otherwise."

An important fact to remember about this time period in world history is that many people saw the looming threats that were developing and felt a compelling desire to be involved. Their sense of duty to their countries still rings true to this day and is a tribute as well as a lasting legacy to the many who sacrificed so much for our freedom from tyranny. Regardless of the allied power that they represented, they banded together during this worldwide conflict that cost so many lives.

After taking the oath to defend her country, Reba was given the rank of 2ndLieutenant as a Reserve Nurse in the Army Nurse Corps. She was ordered to report to the Albuquerque Air Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico and then assigned to Kirkland Field, New Mexico at Station Hospital and then at Station Hospital, Mather Field, California where she would spend the next 27 months as a general duty war nurse.

Her life would forever change in January of 1943 when she volunteered for the Army Air Forces School of Evacuation. All of the applicants of the school were volunteers as the potential for casualties ran high.

The Army utilized a C-47 cargo transport aircraft that served a dual-purpose. Its first role was to transport soldiers and their cargo to the battle-lines. Once having transported their initial load, the planes would then switch roles to become an evacuation air ambulance for the wounded. Since the planes were not identified as a hospital transport and didn’t have a Geneva Red Cross insignia, the assignment was very risky for the crew.

Lieutenant Whittle started training at the Army Air Forces School of Air Evacuation at Bowman Field, Kentucky on September 23, 1943. Prior to her arrival, the training had expanded from four to six weeks. 

According to the book, The Forgotten POW, the following details were highlighted as part of her training: “The intent of the program was to make the nurse largely self-sufficient on the flight. The nurse was required to use the equipment and medical supplies provided on the plane for treatment to relieve pain, to prevent hemorrhage, to treat shock, to administer oxygen, and in every way to meet any circumstances that might be encountered. In contrast to the hospital ward situation, all of this was to be done in the absence of a physician. Only in rare instances did a flight surgeon accompany a patient on a flight.”

Having completed her training, Lieutenant Whittle was assigned to the 813thMedical Aeronautical Transportation Squadron in Great Britain. The unit was initially stationed in the city of Nottingham, but later it moved to Brighton and then to Grove. During her time there from January through September of 1944, she flew 40 missions, 80 hours of which included combat time with a combined flying time of 500 hours. She quickly became a veteran combat nurse who coincidentally, had read nurse Juanita Redmond’s book titled: “I served on Bataan”, published in 1943. This is where she learned about what had happened to her fellow nurses captured in war.

Little did she know she would be next.


Lone POW

The day of September 27th, 1944 was not a good one for 2ndLieutenant Reba Z. Whittle.

In her diary that she began not long after being captured, she wrote that on Wednesday, September 27th, she left England with the intention of returning and going to London the next day, her day off. 

As it turned out, this was not to be: “Was sleeping quite soundly in the back of our hospital plane until suddenly awakened by terrific sounds of guns and cracklings of the plane as if it had gone into bits. For a few moments I hardly knew what to think. Can assure anyone a more than startled expression and sensation. Suddenly looked at my Surgical Tech opposite me with blood flowing from his left leg. The noise by this time seemed to be much worse. But to see the left engine blazing away - is simply more than I can express - But never thought I would land on the ground in one peace [sic]. My prayers were used and quick.”

After the plane had hit the ground and all but one of the crew had got out, there were more surprises to come: “Immediately we saw soldiers not many yards away. At first we thought they were British soldiers. Second glance we recognized they were German GIs. This feeling is one never dreamed of having. But thought - we've had it chum. The first thought in my mind - my boyfriend and he would be waiting back at my quarters that evening. But how thankful and grateful to be alive.”

War has a tendency to bring out the best and worst in humanity, but the ground soldiers or ‘grunts’ who served in the German Army were surprisingly gentle and concerned: “They took a glance their guns pointing and immediately one took out a bandage and put around my head as it was bleeding. The surprised look on their faces when they saw a woman was amazing. But they bandaged us and away we marched our ship still burning.”

The unfortunate mistake that the navigator made during the crew’s mission was to get off course. Instead of flying to France, the mis-navigation took them to Achen, Germany where they were shot down.

During the crash, Reba sustained a concussion and a severe laceration that were later treated by a German doctor. Her ordeal would continue as the Germans who’d captured them drove them deeper into Germany.

Traveling on weathered roads with injured POWs inside a cold and dirty truck, the German Army would periodically stop at different towns to take meal breaks or to discuss what to do with the prisoners. One such encounter between a German doctor and Lieutenant Whittle is indicative of the difficulties of war: “Next stop was a German hospital where they unloaded the wood. A German officer takes us in. Where more questions asked. And just what I was - a Dr. came in and looked all over and asked me questions of being a nurse. Shook his head saying, ‘Too bad having a woman as you are the first one and no one knows exactly what to do.’"

Her travels would continue throughout the German countryside as she was assigned to hospitals along a circuitous route that the German command determined on a seemingly random basis. As she landed in different locations, her nurse training met with practical experience to help the wounded American and British POWs.

Along the way the astonishment of the wounded that a woman had been captured and how it had been done continued to intrigue those she met.


Free at last

As Reba’s internment continued, her writings demonstrated the perseverance and dedication that nurses in war exhibit and especially the concern they show for those in their care.

At the end of November 1944, Lieutenant Whittle’s writing in her diary suddenly stopped. It’s been surmised since she never wrote a reason why or told her husband, that she was just too busy taking care of preparations for the holiday season. 

Throughout her writings she would express her spontaneous crying when she felt desperate, though she never seemed to waiver in her hope that she would be freed.

Towards the end of her journaling she had learned that the International Red Cross had heard of her plight and was trying to repatriate her through official bureaucratic channels. Undoubtedly, this provided hope where there had been none.

Reba Z. Whittle was finally repatriated on January 25th, 1945, having spent four months as a German prisoner of war. She was the only American female nurse to have been captured in Europe during World War II.

After being freed, Lieutenant Whittle was sent home and was able to spend one night with her fiancé, Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Tobiason, who would later return to duty in England. She also received a telegram from then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt thanking her for her service:

As your Commander in Chief, I take pride in your past achievements and express the thanks of a grateful Nation for your services in combat and your steadfastness while a prisoner of war. May God grant each of you happiness and an early return to health.”


Not long after coming home, Reba was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in action and also the Air Medal for serving in unarmed and unarmored aircraft.

A month later, 2ndLieutenant Whittle was promoted to 1stLieutenant. Unable to return to flight duty due to recurring headaches from the injuries she sustained and other maladies, she remained on active duty until August, 1945 when she married Lieutenant Colonel Tobiason at Hamilton Field, California and resigned her commission.

Reba had never been declared a POW officially. She spent the next 10 years petitioning the Department of the Army to get a disability retirement only to be frustrated by bureaucracy. She finally settled for a meager amount in 1955, trying to reapply in 1960.

By that time the case was determined to have been closed. She never did anything further about the medical and psychiatric disorders she’d suffered from being a prisoner of war. However, her legacy has lived on in her two sons, one of them having graduated from the US Naval Academy and becoming a pilot who flew in the Vietnam conflict. 

Reba passed away from cancer in 1981, but her husband again petitioned the Department of the Army. In 1983 Reba was finally officially recognized as a POW of World War II. 

None of us can truly know the struggles and difficulties that a POW must go through, especially when they return. Reba exemplifies the best in humanity and serves as a lasting role model for the Army Nurse Corps. 

She is justified at last.


What do you think of Reba Z. Whittle? Let us know below.


Lieutenant Colonel E.V. Frank, AN, “The Forgotten POW: Second Lieutenant Reba Z. Whittle, AN”, US Army War College, February 1990.

“The 1930s”,

“Angels of Bataan”,

In the years immediately after World War One, a Red Scare swept the US. Following the Russian Revolution there were fears that the Bolsheviks would seek to undermine America and democracy, leading to various laws being enacted. Jonathan Hennika (site here) continues his Scared America series below (following articles on strained 19thcentury politics here, Chinese immigration here, and anti-German propaganda during World War One here).

A drawing depicting the Steel Strike of 1919. From New York World, October 11, 1919.

A drawing depicting the Steel Strike of 1919. From New York World, October 11, 1919.

In a Forbes Magazine editorial, political science Professor Donald Brand wrote, “Donald Trump’s nativism is a fundamental corruption of the founding principles of the Republican Party. Nativists champion the purported interests of American citizens over those of immigrants, justifying their hostility to immigrants by the use of derogatory stereotypes: Mexicans are rapists; Muslims are terrorists.” The United States is not the only nation affectedby Nativism. Great Britain faced its nativist fight in the referendum regarding the nation’s involvement in the European Union. “Nativism … is prejudice in favor of natives against strangers, which in present-day terms means a policy that will protect and promote the interests of indigenous or established inhabitants over those of immigrants. This usage has recently found favor among Brexiters anxious to distance themselves from accusations of racism and xenophobia” journalist Ian Jack wrote in The Guardian.[i]

In 2018, voters in both nations facedthe consequences made in 2016. Great Britain struggled with the formalization of an exit from the European Union; theUnited States grappled with a President who calls himself a “nationalist.” In the lead up to the midterm elections,President Trump demonized a caravan of Latin Americans seeking asylum in the United States; proposed ending birthright citizenship; and threatened to shut down the border between the United States and Mexico. President Trump'slast-minute anti-immigrant rhetoric did not yield him noticeable benefit in the mid-terms; his party retaineda precarious hold on the United States Senate and lost the majority in the House of Representatives.  It is possible the American electorate understood the tactic as one of fear; it is possible President Trump pushed the issue toofar and crossed a line. Perhaps President Trump is a man out of time, as he said at a campaign rally in Houston, Texas” "You know, they have a word. It sort ofbecame old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist," he continued. "And I say, 'Really, we’re not supposed to use that word?' You know what I am? I'm a nationalist. ... Use that word."[ii]


America at a Crossroads 

The United States at the end of World War One was a nation in turmoil. After running on a re-election campaign touting, he kept America out of the European war; Wilson became a War President in April 1917. The President postulated that if Americans went towar “they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.”[iii]American culture changed over-night as war fervor gripped the nation: “Every element of American public opinion was mobilized behind `my country, right or wrong,’ dissent was virtually forbidden, democracy at home was drastically curtailed so that it could be made safe abroad, while impressionable children were `educated’ in Hun atrocities, or their time was employed in liberty loan, Red Cross, war saving stamp or YMCA campaigns.”Soon, this Americanism became codified under the Espionage Act of 1917 and further enforced with the Sedition Act of 1918. Taken together, the Alien-Sedition Act is an early 20thcentury version of the post-September11, 2001,the PatriotAct, in that they curbed criticism of America’s involvement in the First World War. “There was clear implication that people who utilized free speech as a means of gaining improper ends had to be restricted.”[iv]

Once the war ended, those encouragedby the implementation of the Alien-Sedition Act wanted similar peacetime laws. Therefore, a new enemy was required. Political leaders pointed towards the radical revolutions sweeping Eastern Europe and Russia. Their tactic in creating this Red Scareincluded propaganda, which proved politically useful to President Wilson and his public relations man, George Creel. Inciters of the Red Scare painted a picture of Eastern European immigrants as non-conformists and declared they and “their Socialist `cousins’ rejected the premises upon which the American system rested, namely that rights and privileges were open in a free society to anyone who was willing to work up patiently within the system. Or if the individual wereincapable of utilizing this technique, he would eventually be taken care of in a spiritof paternalism by the affluent class, as long as he stood with his hat in his hand and patiently waited.” The fear of the socialist and Bolsheviks was so great that “by 1920 thirty-five states had enacted some form of restrictive, precautionary legislation enabling the rapid crackdown on speech that might by its expression produce unlawful actions geared toward stimulating improper political or economic change.”[v]

These politicians cast themselves as defenders of the United States and all things American. A partial list of these defenders includes Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, former First Army General Leonard Wood, Post Master General Albert Burleson, William J. Flynn, director of the Bureau of Investigation and his head of intelligence, J Edgar Hoover.  Both Palmer and Wood were contenders for the Republican nomination in the 1920 election. Flynn, Hoover, and later Flynn’s successor, William Burns, used the Bolshevik threat to enhance the power and prestige of the Bureau of Investigation, as well as their reputations. 


Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and the Red Scare of 1919

The end of the war, which had been an economic boon for the United States, brought with it a depression due in part to the cancellationof no longer needed war orders. As the economy slumped, retail prices climbed more than doubling by 1920, the worse increases occurring in the spring and summer of 1919. The workers who had prospered during the boom years of the warnow complained about low wages. Over 4,000,000 workers participated in 3,600 strikes in 1919. Veterans, returning to civilian life, resulted in high unemployment. Speaking at a public event, Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson indicated that two significantstrikes in Seattle and Butte, Montana were “instituted by the Bolsheviks…for the sole purpose of bringing about a nationwide revolution in the United States.”[vi]

Americansoldiers arereturning to civilian life, having performed their patriotic duty, found their jobs had been taken over by African-Americans and others who had not served in the war. There was a sharp rise in unemployment which increased nativist sentiment. Soldiers returned to a country where Socialists and other radicals were striking and threatening violence against the government and the democracytheyhad defended in the trench warfare of France. The threats of violence became real in April and June 1919. Bombing campaigns targeted various cities and public officials. Speaking of the June 1919 bombings, William Flynn, Director of the Bureau of Investigation, declared that the “bombers were connected with Russian Bolshevism aided by Hun money,” placing the enemy directly at the feet of the old enemy, Germany, and the new enemy, Russia.[vii]

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer was one of the public officials targeted by the April bombings. Palmer began a swift retaliation campaign between 1919 and 1920. Palmer’s Justice Department rounded up and deported over six thousand aliens and arrested thousands more upon suspicion of belonging to subversive or radical groups. At this time President Wilson had taken ill (having suffered a stroke), Palmer went unchecked. Of the thousands arrested, most were taken within a warrant and detained for inexcusably long sentences. Thosearrested were later released.[viii]In a precursorof what was to come in the 1950s, Attorney General Palmer presented a report to Congress in November 1919. In his report, Palmer stated that “the Department of Justice discovered upwards of 60,000 of these organized agitators of the Trotsky doctrine in the US… confidential information upon which the government is now sweeping the nation clean of such alien filth…. The sharp tongues of the Revolution’s head were licking the altars of the churches, leaping into the belfry of the school bell, crawling into the sacred corners of American homes and seeking to replace marriage with libertine laws.”[ix]

As a result of the Red Scare of 1919-1920, New York State disbarred five Assemblymenas socialist.  Being the nation’s top-crusader against the Red menace, Palmer was unable to turn his campaign of fear and red-baiting into higher political office. Unlike President Trump in 2016, Palmer lost his party’s bid for the nomination. However, as an intended consequence of the Red Scare, in 1921 Congress enacted the Quota law. This was the first of many billspassedduring the Roaring Twenties to sharply curtail an influx of immigration to a country founded by immigrants. These immigration and Naturalization Laws increased the United States’ move towards a return to pre-war isolation and harbored disastrous consequences as the fascists began to seize power in the 1920sand 1930s Europe.


What do you think of the post World War One red Scare in the US? Let us know below.

[i]Donald Brand, “How Donald Trump’s Nativism Ruined the GOP,” Forbes, June 26, 2016.; Ian Jack, “We Called it Racism, Now it’s Nativism,” The Guardian, November 12, 2016.


[ii]Brett Samuels, “Trump: `You Know What I Am? I’m a Nationalist,” The Hill, October 28, 2018.

[iii]Ray Stannard Baer, Woodrow Wilson: Life and Letters(New York: Scribners and Son, 1927), 506-07.

[iv]Paul L Murphy, “Sources and Nature of Intolerance in the 1920s,” The Journal of American History, 51 (June, 1964), 63.

[v]Ibid,62,  65

[vi]Stanley Coben, “A Study in Nativism: The American Red Scare of 1919-20,” Political Science Quarterly, 79 (March, 1964,)66-8.

[vii]Ibid, 60.

[viii]Ibid, 72-3.

[ix]Paul Johnson, Modern Times: From the Twenties to the Nineties(New York: Harper Collins, 1991), 205.

Tsar Nicholas II was the last Tsar of Russia. He ruled from 1894 until his abdication in 1917 – and with his abdication came the end of a line of rulers of Russia, the Romanovs, that went back more than three centuries. Here, Matthew Hazelwood considers Nicholas II and why his reign failed, so leading to the downfall of the Romanov Dynasty.

A 1915 painting of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia by Boris Kustodiev.

A 1915 painting of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia by Boris Kustodiev.

Socialism with a Bloody Face 

On the night of the 16th-17th of July 1918 in Yekaterinburg [1], Russia, Nicholas II and Alexandra, the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, were executed, along with their five children, the head Footman, the head cook, the head physician, and the Czarina’s lady-in-waiting. [2]A week later, Leon Trotsky wrote in his diary:

My next visit to Moscow took place after the fall of Yekaterinburg. Talking to Sverdlov I asked in passing, "Oh yes and where is the Tsar?" "It's all over," he answered. "He has been shot." "And where is his family?" "And the family with him." "All of them?" I asked, apparently with a touch of surprise. "All of them," replied Yakov Sverdlov. "What about it?" He was waiting to see my reaction. I made no reply. "And who made the decision?" I asked. "We decided it here. Ilyich [Lenin] believed that we shouldn't leave the Whites a live banner to rally around, especially under the present difficult circumstances."[3]


The Chief Executioner, Yakov Yurovsky, had no such pause. “I shot Nicholas on the spot.” He said, “The Empress barely had time to cross herself before she was shot. She died instantly. Elsewhere in the room there was bloody carnage as the guards lost control and shot wildly. The bullets ricocheted from the walls to the floor and around the rooms like Hailstones.” This carelessness left six of the eleven victims wounded but alive.  “Alexis {the Tsar’s only son} fell off the chair, shot in the leg, still alive. Kharitonov {the head cook} sat down and died.” “When one of the girls was stabbed, the bayonet would not go through the corset.” The ordeal lasted over twenty minutes. [4]

The true reason for the execution, though, was the Czar himself. Everyone else was an incidental party guilty only by association. Who, then, was this man whose blood ushered in the symbolic end of Czarism and the victory of Bolshevism? Was His Imperial Majesty an innocent victim killed in the name of communism, or a bumbling, reactionary tyrant who got what was coming, or both?


A Philistine Sophisticate 

Nicholas II was first and foremost a loving man. He wrote letters addressing his wife as “my own beloved” and “my dear wifey”. [5]She in turn called him “Sunshine” and “My very own treasure”.[6]He spoke Russian, German, French, and English, and once told his son’s tutor that as a young man, “{my} favorite subject was history”. [7]Their relationship was, by all accounts, successful, even if Alexandra’s English reserve and stoic pride caused her to be hated by the populous and snubbed by Russian aristocrats.[8]As an adult, he became a passionate amateur photographer; but despite these virtues, he was the wrong man to head the Russian Empire. [9]

And his faults leap to the scholar’s eye. “He was handsome and blue-eyed” wrote Simon Sebag Montefiore, “but diminutive and hardly majestic, and his looks and his immaculate manners concealed an astonishing arrogance, contempt for the educated political classes, vicious anti-Semitism, and an unshakable belief in his right to rule as a sacred autocrat. He was jealous of his ministers, and he possessed the unfortunate ability to make himself utterly distrusted by his own government.”[10]

But even he had modest moments. When his father, Tsar Alexander, unexpectedly died at the age of forty-nine, Nicholas, then a youth of twenty-six years, became Tsar. The world as he knew it had come to an end. Nicholas was reported to have said to his brother-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, “Sandro {the Grand Duke’s nickname}, what am I going to do? What is going to happen to me, to you, to Alex, to mother, to Russia? I am not ready to be Tsar. I never wanted to become one.” Nicholas’ younger sister, Grand Duchess Olga, agreed while absolving her brother of any blame: “Nicky was in despair. He kept saying that he did not know what would become of us all. That he was wholly unfit to reign. And yet, Nicky’s unfitness was by no means his fault. He should have been taught statesmanship, and he was not.” [11]

But the universe had other plans. Nicholas was the rightful heir to the throne, and nothing could change that.  His wife even gave him the marching orders: “Be more autocratic than Peter the Great and sterner than Ivan the Terrible.”[12]No matter how hard Nicholas tried, he could never quite learn the decisiveness of Peter nor the cruelty of Ivan.  It was a mistake from which he and his loved ones could never recover from.


Nicholas as leader 

His first massive blunder was when he chose to wage war against Japan. Nicholas II wanted control of the South China Sea and to increase his country’s global power. He didn’t expect the conflict to last long, since the Japanese were “yellow men, not entirely civilized”. What he didn’t realize was Japan had possession of an impressive military, and they roundly defeated Russia’s pacific fleet. Russia was forced to sue for peace. 

The loyalty of the people was lost after Sunday, January 9, 1905, otherwise known as Bloody Sunday. A group of peaceful demonstrators marched through St. Petersburg, in the hope of appealing to the Czar himself. Nicholas, however, wasn’t made for diplomacy. He left the city, ordering the military to disband the crowd should they come close to the Winter Palace. The ensuing massacre left an estimated 800 dead.[13]To the Tsar’s credit, though, he wrote in his diary “A distressing day. The troops have been forced to fire in several parts of the city, and there are many killed and wounded. Lord, how powerful and sad this is.”[14]But this was little consolation. 

Then 1914 came along, and Nicholas decided, against the wishes of many a Minister, that Russia would fight against the Triple Alliance in the First World War. Count Sergei Witte advised against war “because the army is the mainstay of the regime and may well be needed to preserve order at home.” Pyotr Durnovo, no friend of the Revolution, predicted that war would cause “Russia {to be} flung into hopeless anarchy; the issue of which cannot be foreseen.” Even the notorious Rasputin, a favorite of the Queen, said that “{war} will be the end of all of you”. 

As the bodies piled up, the soldiers’ morale was soon depleted beyond repair. This above anything else is what ruined him. It became clear to everyone from the most illiterate peasant to the richest aristocrat that changes had to be made. But Nicholas remained resistant to change. A violent revolution in February 1917 made the decision for him. He signed the throne away to his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, but Michael refused. Some wanted Nicholas’ son to become Tsar, but Alexis was a hemophiliac, and Nicholas declared that “I can’t bear to be parted from him.”[15]

The Duma, or Parliament, first created a Worker’s Council, which pledged its support if Marxist policies were enacted, and a temporary Provisional Government was created which would guide Russia through the war abroad, and away from chaos at home. One important change was the repealing of former laws against speech and assembly. But despite becoming the “freest country in the world”, workers called for far more changes. They wanted to control the factories and have eight-hour days. Strikes were rampant. 

Around June 1917, the Provisional Government initiated a few offensives against Germany, but the Russians were forced to retreat after two days of advancing. The First Machine Gun Regiment was called for back-up, but most of these soldiers were Pro-Bolshevik, and threatened to take over the government. A month later, workers joined the soldiers and sailors for an armed uprising. But the Bolshevik leaders were not ready to make a move, and the government quickly cracked down. Many were arrested. 

Around this time, the former minister of Justice Aleksandr Kerensky, a self-proclaimed socialist, became prime minister. Though the only socialist in power, he had the death penalty restored, and the restrictions on public gatherings increased. But instability continued as Kerensky pushed policies advocated for by the head of the army, General Kornilov, which amounted to martial law, but then Kerensky turned against Kornilov, and advocated that the Soviets fight against Kornilov’s army. Instead the Soviet convinced Kornilov’s soldiers to put down their weapons. 

This hurt Kerensky’s reputation infinitely, and his countrymen became more radicalized, to the point where more and more Bolsheviks were elected to the Soviets. Hearing of the planned insurrection, the meeting of the Soviet Congress was rescheduled from October 20thto the 25th. As for Kerensky, his last and final mistake was to try to move most of the Petrograd Garrison to the northern front. The Bolsheviks formed the Military Revolutionary Committee to prevent this. And at last, on October 25th, 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power, and by then the fate of the Czar was sealed.[16]


Final Thoughts 

We have seen Nicholas the man, and Nicholas the leader. Where does that leave us? What judgements, if any, do we make? When it comes to human affairs, the historian must remember that there are no easy answers. A certain level of skepticism is necessary, because history is inevitably political, and politics is often far from objective. A Hitler warrants universal condemnation, but most people aren’t Hitler. 

As mentioned above, Nicholas had positive qualities. A better question, perhaps, is what could have been done differently? Should he have listened to X or should he have done Y? We can’t rule that out, but this fails to give us a larger perspective. The real battle the last Tsar was fighting wasn’t with the liberals or the Bolsheviks; it was against a much stronger, much scarier enemy, and that enemy was modernity. 

To yield to modernity meant to negate certain values that had been propagated for centuries. A society where most people were lowly laborers, educated aristocrats quietly laughed at the foibles of the world, theologians studied intensely, and the monarch’s word was law. The world is as it is because God willed it so. To a mere peasant, the world may seem unfair, but that’s because he doesn’t have God’s knowledge. The Universe is necessarily as it is. No changes are permitted to be made unless we want to be cast in eternal hell-fire. Nicholas was trying his hardest to keep his world from collapsing on top of him.  

Nevertheless, it was a war he was destined to lose. An extraordinary amount of energy was going to be let loose one way or the other, as in Britain in 1688, North America in 1775, and France in 1789 respectively. What was necessary was the creation of a freer, more just, and more technologically advanced society in Russia. And though one could argue that Russia is still behind other Western countries in areas such as freedom of speech, press, and assembly, Russia is much better off than it was a century ago. 

If Nicholas had been forward-thinking, in a word, wiser, it’s likely that Russia’s transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy would’ve been much smoother, and the excesses of Marxism-Leninism wouldn’t have been realized. His regressive outlook and uncertain jesters, unfortunately, did nothing more than exacerbate the situation. He had several chances to make changes for the better, and he did not take them. In fact, he consistently made the wrong decision until, ultimately, his options ran out and the Bolsheviks got to him. 

The story of civilization, though, is not a morality play. There are no good guys or bad guys. It’s a tale more profound and dramatic than anything Shakespeare ever wrote. This article can only give you a snapshot into Russia’s unique place in that great whole which nobody can completely understand.  If we cannot love the long-dead emperor of Russia, we can at least recognize the Romanov’s execution as one of the darker moments of the twentieth century. 


What do you think of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia? Let us know below.

[1] Massie, Robert K. (2012). The Romanovs: The Final Chapter. Random House.pp. 3–24

[2] William H. Honan (12 August 1992), A Playwright Applies His Craft To Czar Nicholas II’s Last Days, New York Times, Retrieved 26thNovember 2018 

[3]King, G. (1999). The Last Empress, Replica Books, p. 358. 

[4]Sebestyen, Victor. (2017) Lenin. London: Penguin Random House LLC. 401-410

[5]Letters from Tsar Nicholas to Tsaritsa Alexander-January 1916. Retrieved from

[6](2018, April 26). ‘Cover you with kisses, my Angel’: #Romanovs100 Intimate love letters. Retrieved from

[7](2006, May 17). Tsar Nicholas and his Family. Retrieved from

[8]Anderson, M. (director). (1996).  Last of the Czars. {motion picture}. USA: Discovery Channel.

[9]Anderson, M. (director). (1996).  Last of the Czars. {motion picture}. USA: Discovery Channel.

[10]Montefiore, Simon Sebag. (2018, Oct.12). The Devastating True Story of the Romanov Family’s Execution. Retrieved from

[11]Anderson, M. (director). (1996).  Last of the Czars. {motion picture}. USA: Discovery Channel

[12](2015, May 21). Quotes on Nicholas II Romanov. Retrieved from


[13]Sebestyen, Victor. (2017) Lenin. London: Penguin Random House LLC. Pg. 159-170 & 234-239

[14]Anderson, M. (director). (1996).  Last of the Czars. {motion picture}. USA: Discovery Channel.

[15]Sebestyen, Victor. (2017) Lenin. London: Penguin Random House LLC.Pg. 159-170 & 234-239

[16]Figes, Orlando. (2017, October 25th). From Czar to U.S.S.R.: Russia’s Chaotic Year of Revolution. Retrieved from

Immigration has been a regular theme to date during US President Donald Trump’s administration, but it has played a role throughout American history. Here, we follow on from past articles (on strained 19thcentury politics here and Chinese immigration here) and look at the use of anti-German propaganda in America during World War One.  Jonathan Hennika explains (his site here).

A US Army anti-German propaganda poster during World War One.

A US Army anti-German propaganda poster during World War One.

For political observers, the use of the migrant caravan working its way north to the United States border by President Trump and his supporters as a mid-term election scare tactic came as nosurprise. “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump said in an interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31, 2016, at the Old Post Office Pavilion, Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C.[i] Such words were never spoken by the Chief Executive of the United Statesbeforethe era of President Trump. While addressing the delegates of the United Nationsin September 2018, President Trump proudly declared: “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination.”[ii]

President Trump had been laying the groundwork for his imagined bogeyman for some time.  Reporting on a pre-election speech given by the President, The New York Times concluded, “President Trump’s closing argument is now clear: Build tent cities for migrants. End birthright citizenship. Fear the caravan. Send active-duty troops to the border. Refuse asylum. Immigration has been the animating issue of the Trump Presidency, and now…the president has fully embraced a dark, anti-immigrant message in the hope that stoking fear will motivate voters to reject Democrats.”[iii]

A tactic used in any campaign of fear of the foreigner is the labeling of the other as a threat to the American public or national security. Characterizing the caravan, the President declared at a White House Press conference, that it was made up of “a lot of young men…and a lot of men we maybe don’t want in our country…they have injured; they have killed.”[iv]While this type of scare tactic has been used before in American politics, nonehadachieved the level of an unassuming newspapermanfrom Colorado in 1916.


George Creel and the Committee on Public Information

On the eve of America’s entry into World War One, President Woodrow Wilson wrote, “It is not an army that we must shape and train for war. It is a nation… The whole nation must be a team.” Tounite the nation into the team needed to fight Nationalism and militarism that was at the heart of the First World War, President Wilson leaned heavily on the former muckraking journalist George Creel. Creel, an ardent supporter of Woodrow Wilson in the election of 1916, wrote a brief that came to the attention of the scholarly Wilson. The author/historian Jon Dos Pasos wrote the Creel brief, “summed up the arguments for and against official wartime censorship and suggested that what was needed was not suppression, but expression; in other words, a publicity campaign to sell the war to the nation.”[v]Early in the creation, Creeland the Committee for Public Information (CPI) decided the United States was fighting to save democracy for the world. If the United States was the hero, a villain was needed. After the sinking of the cruise ship Lusitania, the Kaiser and unrestricted submarine warfare made it easy for Germany to play theroleof the villain. 

By 1910 the Library of Congress estimated the German-bornpopulation in America to be 2.3 million.[vi]As with all ethnic groups that came to America, the German community was close-knit, often reading newspapers or attending church services that were primarily in German. At the onset of the United States entry into the war in 1917, Americanization came to German sounding street or city names by renaming them in honor of the General in charge of the American Expeditionary Force, John J. Pershing or honoringthe innocent victim of German militarism, neutral Belgium.

As Creel and his propagandists poured out an anti-German message soon there appearedsubtle changes in the German influence on the melting pot of American culture.  The German staple sauerkraut was called Liberty Cabbage. The banning of Germanlanguage instruction in public schools and colleges was commonplace. The ban was the central point of discussion in the 1919 case before the Supreme Court Meyer v Nebraska. 

Esteemed German composers and conductors confronted the face of the fear campaign. KarlMuck, the conductor of the Boston SymphonyOrchestra,faced ostracization as a result of anti-German sentiment. After receiving a request by political clubs and civic organizations,out of Providence, Rhode Island Muckwas instructed by the founder and manager of the BSO to not open the October 30, 1916 performance with the star-spangled banner. Later performances had to be canceleddue to the anti-German backlash. Even the music of Wagner did not escape criticism, “the Wagner cult in music has naturally spread, together with the Kaiser cult in politics.”[vii]


Let the Images Speak for Themselves

Some of the most chilling anti-German themes came from the propaganda posters. In images that served as inspiration for the anti-Japanese campaign of World War Two, the German, or Hun, was portrayed as a hulking beast, raping and pillaging across Europe (see the above/below images).

The world recently celebrated the centennial of the Armistice.  Shortly after the war ended, America turned inward, shunning it’s new found place on the world stage. The world was changing; the Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia; Germany fellinto a gripping economic depression as a result of the cost of the peace; and the militarism the world had fought against would see a resurgence in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Tojo’s Japan. While the world changed, the United States imposed even harsher immigration controls in the 1920s. The use of fear of the other, so easily demonstrated by George Creel, had a lasting impact and informedUnited States immigration policy into the 21stcentury, as evidencedby President Trump'srhetoric.


What do you think of the use of anti-German propaganda during World War One? Let us know below.

[i]Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump in the White House(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018), Kindle Edition.

[ii]UPI, Full text: President Donald Trump's Speech to United Nations, September 25, 2018.

[iii]Michel D. Shear and Julie Hirschefiled Davis, “As Midterm Vote Nears, Trump Reprises a Favorite Message: Fear Immigrants,” New York Times, November 1, 2018.


[v]John Dos Pasos, Mr. Wilson’s War(New York: Knopf Doubleday, 1962), 300.

[vi]The Germans in America, Library of Congress,

[vii]J.E. Vacha, “When Wagner was Verboten: The Campaign against German Music in World War I,” New York History64 (1983): 173-4.

Further American anti-German Propaganda from World War One

A US Navy recruitment poster, showing a bloody German moving through dead bodies.

A US Navy recruitment poster, showing a bloody German moving through dead bodies.

A newspaper image of “The Rape of Belgium”, related to the German invasion of Belgium in 1914.

A newspaper image of “The Rape of Belgium”, related to the German invasion of Belgium in 1914.

Another reference to Belgium to encourage people to buy war bonds.

Another reference to Belgium to encourage people to buy war bonds.

In the early days of the Cold War, during the years after World War II, spies became a key weapon for the USSR and USA. But perhaps the most important spies were those American-born Soviet spies who provided secrets about America’s nuclear weapons program, the Manhattan Project, to the Soviet Union. Scott Rose tells us about Cold War nuclear weapons spying in the USA.

Lona Cohen, an American-born Soviet spy on a Russian postage stamp.

Lona Cohen, an American-born Soviet spy on a Russian postage stamp.

Morris Cohen, an American-born Soviet spy on a Russian postage stamp.

Morris Cohen, an American-born Soviet spy on a Russian postage stamp.

In summer this year, an alleged Russian spy named Maria Butina was arrested in Washington, DC, where she currently awaits trial, charged with conspiring to act as an agent for a foreign government. However, Russian espionage in the United States is not a new phenomenon, actually beginning in earnest during the Soviet era, particularly during World War Two. During the war and the years immediately afterward, Russian spies in the U.S. gained unprecedented access to the American atomic research community.

Soviet spying took on all sorts of forms through the years, from homegrown Russian agents who took on American appearances to American citizens who betrayed their country and stole highly sensitive information, including the data needed to build the Soviet Union’s first atomic weapon.


The Race to Build the Bomb

The United States knew that Nazi Germany was actively trying to develop atomic power during World War Two. In 1942, the U.S., along with Great Britain and Canada, began what was called the Manhattan Project, with the purpose of building atomic weapons before the Germans could develop their own. The Soviets also started an atomic development program, though much smaller than the American project. The Soviet research team consisted of about 550 people; whereas the Manhattan Project at its peak employed over 130,000. With so much more money and manpower at work, the Americans were seemingly light years ahead of Soviet atomic research.

The Germans surrendered in April of 1945 without succeeding in building atomic weapons, and in July, the Manhattan Project tested its first atomic device at Los Alamos, New Mexico. On August 6th, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atomic bomb. Three days later, the second bomb destroyed Nagasaki, and the Japanese surrendered six days later.  

The Soviets realized that the United States had become the world’s first superpower with its development of the atomic bomb. They also knew it would take many years to catch up with American atomic abilities, unless they gained access to the Manhattan Project’s research. Even before the war ended, the Soviets used espionage for the purpose of acquiring America’s atomic secrets.

The scientists that worked on the Manhattan Project included some of the top researchers and mathematicians from America, Britain, and Canada. The Soviets aimed to glean information from scientists with leftist leanings, and in time these efforts bore fruit. In the 1940s, a young American from Philadelphia named Harry Gold began working for the Soviet Union. His orders were to make contact with a Manhattan Project scientist named Klaus Fuchs, and to move atomic information from Fuchs to the Soviets. Born in Germany, Fuchs had emigrated to Britain, becoming a citizen there. By the time he reached his early 30s, Fuchs was respected as a brilliant physicist, and his work would contribute greatly to the American development of the atomic bomb. Fuchs gave critical information on the Manhattan Project’s research to Gold during the war, unbeknownst to the Americans. In 1946, he returned to Britain to work for the new British atomic program, and he continued to pass information to Soviet agents in Britain.

Another of Gold’s sources was David Greenglass, a U.S. Army machinist from New York who had worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Greenglass had been recruited into espionage by his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were committed Communist Party members, and some of the information Greenglass collected was passed to them. They in turn passed the same information along to their Soviet handlers.

The Soviets had taken several German atomic scientists back to the U.S.S.R. after the war, and although the Germans had failed to produce an atomic bomb, these scientists were a huge boost to the Soviet atomic program. With the accelerated pace of Soviet research, and stolen atomic secrets from America, the Soviets were able to make up ground quickly. Still, America was shocked when the Soviets tested their first atomic device in August of 1949. Now the world had two superpowers instead of one.

The American military distrusted the Soviets, even during the war, when the two countries were allies, and the U.S. suspected the Soviets were in the business of using Americans to gather intelligence. In 1943, the Army launched the Venona Project, a program using complex mathematics to decode secret messages from the Soviets to their operatives in other nations. Venona was so secret that President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t even know about the program when it commenced.


The Dominos Fall

One month after the Soviet atomic test, Venona hit a home run when it identified Klaus Fuchs as a Soviet spy. This information was passed along to British intelligence, and Fuchs was questioned about his activities. Fuchs denied having ever been a spy, and was not held in custody. However, in January of 1950, Fuchs contacted the British authorities and confessed to having passed atomic information to the Soviets through Harry Gold. Immediately arrested and put on trial for espionage, Fuchs was convicted, sentenced to 14 years in prison, and stripped of his British citizenship. He served just over nine years before being released early for “good behavior.” Upon release, Fuchs left Britain for East Germany, where he got married and went to work for that country’s nuclear research program, before passing away in 1988 at the age of 76.

When Fuchs was arrested in 1950, his confession led to the arrest of Harry Gold in the United States. Gold was interrogated, and confessed to having been a Soviet spy since 1934; he admitted to passing Fuchs’ atomic information to the Soviet General Consul. During Gold’s confession, he spilled the beans about his other espionage contacts, David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs. At the beginning of the year when Fuchs was arrested, Julius Rosenberg had given Greenglass $5,000 in order for Greenglass to escape to Mexico with his wife and children. Instead, the Greenglasses had stayed put and used the money to hire a lawyer. In June of 1950, the FBI arrested David Greenglass, charging him with espionage. 

Not long after Greenglass was arrested, he gave up his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, and at first, Greenglass denied his sister Ethel’s involvement in the spy ring. A couple of months later, Greenglass changed his story and implicated his sister as well, claiming Ethel had typed the notes he had passed from the Manhattan Project. Greenglass stated that Ethel had originally recruited him to become a spy, after being persuaded by her husband Julius. One of the Rosenbergs’ assistants, Morton Sobell, was arrested while on the run in Mexico City, and he was extradited to stand trial along with the Rosenbergs.

The trial began in early March and lasted 3 weeks. Greenglass testified that he had given Julius Rosenberg illustrations of atomic bomb research, and Harry Gold testified that he had worked as a courier for the Rosenbergs, who never admitted their guilt. The couple and Sobell were convicted; while Sobell got a 30 year sentence and was sent to Alcatraz, the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death. Judge Irving Kaufman, during sentencing, claimed the Rosenbergs crime was “worse than murder”. He blamed the Rosenbergs for giving the Soviet Union access to atomic weapons, which he argued had led to the communist aggression in Korea that cost thousands of American lives.

Many people around the world felt the sentence was overly harsh. There was a worldwide campaign for clemency, and many leading artists, writers, and scientists of the day joined the movement. Even Pope Pius XII asked President Eisenhower to reduce the Rosenbergs’ sentence, but the president refused. After two years of appealing their sentence, the Rosenbergs were executed on July 19th, 1953, meeting their fate via the electric chair at New York’s Sing Sing prison. 

The other members of the spy ring were much luckier than the Rosenbergs. Sobell was released from prison in 1969 and wrote a book, spoke on the lecture circuit, and maintained his innocence for many years before finally admitting his guilt in 2008, claiming that by aiding the Soviets, he had simply “bet on the wrong horse.” Sobell is still alive and residing in New York at the age of 101. Harry Gold was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but didn’t serve even half of his sentence before being paroled. He died in 1972 and was buried in his hometown of Philadelphia. David Greenglass only served nine years in prison before returning to New York and changing his name. He gave an interview to the New York Timesin 1996, claiming he had exaggerated his sister Ethel’s involvement in the spy ring in order to protect his own wife from prosecution. During the rambling interview, Greenglass declared “My wife is more important to me than my sister. Or my mother or my father. OK?”


To Russia with Love 

The Rosenbergs were not the only American couple to help the Soviets attain atomic secrets. Another New York couple, Morris and Lona Cohen, were united by their Marxist ideologies, and proved to be valuable agents for the U.S.S.R. Morris had served in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, and he was recruited into Soviet intelligence at that time. Lona was an eager partner in her husband’s espionage activities, and the couple established contact with several Manhattan Project scientists. When Klaus Fuchs was arrested in Britain, the Cohens didn’t wait for the trail to lead back to New York, leaving immediately for the Soviet Union. In 1954, the childless Cohens re-emerged in London as “Peter and Helen Kroger”, operating a small antique book shop. They were also operating a new espionage network for the Soviets. Seven years after their arrival in England, the Cohens were caught with a houseful of spying equipment and arrested. Put on trial and convicted, luck would intervene for the “Krogers” in 1969, when they were traded to the Soviet Union for British prisoner Gerald Brooke. Many Britons criticized the exchange, claiming the Soviet Union should have been forced to pay a higher price for the Cohens, as by this time it was known that they were two of the most dangerous spies on the planet. They would live out the remainder of their lives in Russia, where they died in the early 1990s.

When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, old Soviet espionage files were opened that detailed the contributions made by spies to the Soviet atomic program. These files showed that while the Rosenbergs gave valuable information to the Soviets, the secrets gathered by the Cohens were most vital to Soviet development of the atomic bomb. Seemingly confirming the Cohens’ importance was the fact that during the last years of the Soviet Union’s existence, commemorative Soviet stamps were printed honoring both Morris and Lona Cohen. The honors bestowed on the couple in Russia seem an ironic twist, given the fact that these Americans did so much, in the name of idealism, to hurt their own country.


What do you think about Soviet spies in the USA during the Cold War? Let us know below.


Chester B. Hearn, Spies & Espionage: A Directory, Thunder Bay Press, 2006

Slava Katamidze, Loyal Comrades, Ruthless Killers: The Secret Services of the USSR 1917-1991, Barnes & Noble, 2003

Robert McFadden, “David Greenglass, the Brother who Doomed Ethel Rosenberg, Dies at 92”, The New York Times, October 14, 2014

Sam Roberts, “For First Time, Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits Spying for Soviets”, The New York Times, September 12, 2008

Allen Hornblum, The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb, Yale University Press, 2010

Richard Rhodes, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1995

Robert Chadwell Williams, Klaus Fuchs: Atom Spy, Harvard University Press, 1987

Julia Catherine Stimson (1881-1948) was a nurse who led a remarkable life. This included playing a key nursing role for the United States in World War One, notably leading all American nurses in France. Here, Matt Goolsby follows his articles on US Civil War nurses Clara Barton (here) and Cornelia Hancock (here), and continues his series on Nurses in War.

Julia Catherine Stimson in 1920.

Julia Catherine Stimson in 1920.

Into the Twentieth Century

The early 20th century in the American experience brought forth several foundational technological changes.

The automobile was introduced along with the highly efficient manufacturing assembly line innovated by Henry Ford. Many Americans could save for and afford a new Model T nicknamed ‘Tin Lizzie’ for a mere $300.

The Wright brothers championed flying in Kittyhawk, North Carolina, thus forever changing the nature of travel.

With these technological innovations, the nature of warfare dramatically changed. 

By the start of World War I, the mechanisms of war utilized a much broader array of innovative weapons that included: aircraft that dropped artillery over the battlefield, tanks that charged positions indiscriminately, flamethrowers that were used to ‘vacate’ captured trenches, and submarines that decimated convoys carrying much needed supplies.

Fortunately, medical care had also made huge advances forward in the treatment and care of the critically wounded.

One of the modern inventions of the day was the X-Ray machine. Cumbersome for the time and unable to be used on a mobile platform, Madam Marie Curie developed smaller, portable units called “Little Curies” that could be utilized at field hospitals.


Educational foundations

The United States Army had come a long way since the Civil and Spanish-American War eras by the early 1900s both in its view of the medical profession and nurses in particular. Numerous advancements in the care of the wounded led to a much greater survival rate despite the weapons used in World War I.

Gone were the days that nurses were ‘Volunteers’ or on contract. They were now fully-fledged members of the US military. Stepping into the spotlight at this time was Julia Catherine Stimson.

Julia was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on May 26, 1881 to Dr. Reverend Henry A. Stimson and Alice Wheaton Bartlett Stimson. She was the second of seven and was born into a prominent family that had distinguished itself in Public Service. 

Dr. Lewis Atterbury Stimson, her uncle, was a surgeon who was the first to perform a public operation utilizing a procedure known as the ‘Joseph Lister antiseptic technique’. He also wrote the original charter for Cornell University’s medical school and helped to secure an endowment to open it.

Julia’s cousin Henry L. Stimson, her uncle Lewis’s son, became the Secretary of War and Secretary of State under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His sister Candace also served in World War I administering the anti-tetanus serum. 

Public Service was born into the Stimson lineage.

A recurring theme throughout Julia’s life was the transient nature of her career path. Having had a father who was a pastor, there were times that the family relocated from its Northeastern locale.

When Julia was five, the family moved to St. Louis so that her father could take the job of pastor at the Pilgrim Congregational church, part of the United Church of Christ. Seven years later, the family relocated to New York where her father took the job of Pastor of the Broadway Church in Manhattan, New York City and where she attended the Brearley school. This is where her education took a profound turn forward as shown in her writings. 

The private Brearley school for girls was founded by Samuel A. Brearley Jr. in 1884 as an institution whose mission as their website states is: “To provide young women with an education comparable to that available to their brothers.”

Women were not given the same opportunity for education in the late 19thcentury as their male peers, so this proved to be a foundational event in her young life.

Upon graduating from Brearley, Julia began studies at the Vassar Women’s college in Poughkeepsie, New York. She started her college career at the tender age of 16 and graduated in 1901 with an A.B. degree along with her eldest sister Alice. Her three younger sisters also graduated from Vassar; Lucille in 1904, Dorothy in 1912, and Barbara in 1919.

It is of note that when she graduated she wanted to become a physician, but her parents and uncle Henry Stimson discouraged her from entering the male dominated world of medicine. Her youngest sister was later able to enter the medical profession as an orthopedic surgeon, as their parents relaxed their standards with the most juvenile offspring.


Personal experience leads to Nursing

In 1903, Julia was hospitalized for a chronic skin condition, and it was there that she met who was to become her mentor, Annie Warburton Goodrich, head of the New York Hospital Training School for nurses. Ms. Goodrich would later go on to become the first Dean of Yale School of Nursing.

Through this relationship, Julia enrolled in the New York Hospital training school and graduated in 1908. She became supervisor of nurses at Harlem Hospital from 1908 to 1911, thus honing her leadership skills.

Her career would be further refined through numerous posts until the latter part of World War I when the United States entered the war.

A succession of graduated experiences included being the head of social service at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, and later becoming the Superintendent of the Training School for Nurses at Barnes Hospital and then St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

She even managed to fit in a Graduate degree in Sociology while living in St. Louis.

The many work and life experiences that Julia had, prepared her for the trying times to come.


Chief of Nurses

With the American entrance into World War I on April 2, 1917, Julia Catherine Stimson volunteered to join the US Army Nurses Corps and became the Chief Nurse of Base Hospital #21 at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. This unit would soon be transferred to Rouen, France to care of the wounded on the front lines.

She effectively organized and selected the nurses who would accompany her to the European theater. Her writings attest to the joy she felt at the privilege of being able to serve in a larger cause:

“Don't you worry about me one least little bit. I am having the time of my life and wouldn't have missed it for anything in the world.”

–       Written May 25, 1917 onboard ship.


Her humanity and compassionate spirit come through in much of her writing, although it was often mistaken that she was a cold-hearted administrator:

“In the blinding light of war, her dominant personality stood out in the same bold outlines as did her Amazonian physique. Her regular, boyish features habitually wore a thoughtful expression, which brought to the observer an impression of dignity and power. Her well-trained mental processes, clean-cut often to the point of brusque speech, were as direct in their focus as were her keen blue eyes.”


While some may have found this complimentary, she took offense at how she was portrayed by some of her peers and complained that she was unfairly characterized. It is written that she was a shy and sensitive woman who clearly knew what her work in life was to be.

She demonstrates her sensitivity to the horrors of war in a letter dated, July 16, 1917 from Rouen, France:

“On the fourth of July we thought how like a home Fourth it was, but here the popping and the shots sound every day. And it is not fireworks that are being shot off. At neighboring camps there are experts in bayoneting, experts in gassing, experts in Hate Talk. There are actually special men who sometimes talk to as many as three thousand men to make them feel that their chief business is to kill. It is incomprehensible. Whenever will this toppling world right itself?”


As the war continued, Julia was right in the middle of treating the most critically wounded. Her courage along with the nurses in her charge was evident numerous times in her letters. She writes of an incident that occurred on September 28, 1917:

“A nurse was holding a droplight over the bed, another nurse was holding the arm, a doctor was adjusting the tourniquet so that the vein would show up well, then the two men who were working were bending over the arm, I was handing them instruments, for I was scrubbed up, since everything must be sterile. The patient was just gasping, rapidly growing worse, but the point went in successfully and the blood began to flow into his vein, when all the lights went out and the patient stopped breathing!”


Unfortunately, the patient she wrote of passed in the middle of being treated. However, her fortitude was put to good use many times as demonstrated when her younger brother Philip, himself a doctor who was assigned to a company of the US Army in France, was wounded by random shrapnel fire. 

After being treated, Julia worked diligently to have her brother transferred to her hospital unit to be in her care and had a personal escort from her hospital unit, a Captain Veeder, also a doctor, travel with her 130 miles via ambulance to retrieve Philip. They drove all the way back to her assigned hospital unit in Rouen where she was able to oversee his care and convalescence. It is remarkable what she did to care for others!


First Colonel of the Army Nurse Corps

As the war continued on, Julia was reassigned to the American Red Cross in Paris where she became the Chief Nurse in France with 10,000 nurses reporting to her. Her administrative abilities came to full fruition with this assignment and the next in November 1918, as she became the director of nursing for the American Expeditionary Forces.

The relationship between the American Red Cross and the US Army was and is a close one as the Red Cross has a unique charter of working in an integral way with the US military. 

When the war ended, Julia returned to the US and was appointed the acting Superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps and the Dean of the Army School of Nursing. Her appointment became permanent at the end of 1919. 

With the passage of the amended Defense Act on June 4, 1920, she became a major in the US Army, the first and only woman of that rank at the time. 

She went on to serve as the Superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps until 1937 when she retired having served her country for twenty years caring for those in need. 

When World War II broke out, she was recalled to Active Duty to recruit women for the Army Nurse Corps. She was promoted to the rank of Colonel shortly before she passed away in September of 1948 at the age of 67. 

It is awe inspiring to read about the courageous nature and beautiful spirit that Julia Stimson graciously demonstrated throughout her life as well as the relationships she developed that lasted her entire career.

May we each be motivated to live a life that inspires and moves others to good deeds.


What do you think of Julia Catherine Stimson? Let us know below.


Julia Catherine Stimson, “Finding themselves: The letters of an American Army Chief Nurse in a British Hospital in France”, The Macmillan Company, New York, September 1918.

Lavinia L. Dock,Sarah Elizabeth Pickett,Clara D. Noyes,Fannie F. Clement,Elizabeth G. Cox, Anna R. VanMeter, “History of American Red Cross Nursing”, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1922.

 “Twelve Technological advancements of World War I”,

“Alumni of Vasser College – Julia Stimson”,

“Lewis Atterbury Stimson – Partial Biography”,

“The Brearley School”,

“Julia Catherine Stimson and the Mobilization of Womanpower” – Marion Hunt,

“The history of Red Cross Nursing”,

The Falklands War took place between Britain and Argentina in 1982. The Falklands are a British territory, about 500 kilometers off the coast of Argentina, that Argentina invaded in April 1982. The British had to quickly launch an operation to re-claim the islands. And part of this operation was Operation Black Buck – the longest bombing run in history. Dean Smith explains.

A Vulcan XM607, which carried out the first Operation Black Buck raid. Source: Jebediah Springfield, available  here .

A Vulcan XM607, which carried out the first Operation Black Buck raid. Source: Jebediah Springfield, available here.

War in the South Atlantic

On April the second 1982, the Argentine military under the direction of President Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the British Falkland Islands. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, promised a swift and decisive response. As a result, on April 5th, a Naval Taskforce left Britain on route to Ascension Island, from where it would carry out the second route of its journey to retake the Falklands from Argentine control. 

At the same time, the British Royal Air Force’s Avro Vulcan bomber was due to be retired that year. However, the Falklands conflict gave the ageing nuclear bomber a stay of execution and pushed it into combat service. The Vulcan was not only used in anger for the first time in April 1982, but it also took part in what was the longest successful bombing run in history: a round flight of almost 13,000 kilometers, between Ascension Island and the Falklands (Blackman, 2014). 

During the planning stages of the assault on Argentine held locations on the Falklands, much attention was paid to how to achieve air superiority over the islands (Hasting, 2013). The British Air Force would be comprised primarily of Royal Navy Sea Harriers, operating from aircraft carriers such as the British Flagship HMS Hermes (Ward 1993). 

From the airfield outside Port Stanley, Argentine fighters could be deployed to intercept Royal Navy aircraft. As had been well demonstrated during the Battle of Britain in World War Two, an assault on an island stronghold by air is advantageous to the Air Force of the defending side (Holland, 2010). As a result, much effort was put into attempting to disable the Argentine controlled airfield near Port Stanley. 


Technical Difficulties

A solution was devised using the Avro Vulcan bomber, performing extreme distance bombing runs from Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island to Port Stanley on the Falklands.

However, there were multiple problems with this idea. The distance between Ascension Island and the Falklands was approximately 6,300 kilometers, with the maximum effective range of the Vulcan being a mere 4,171 km. Due primarily to the plans to decommission the Vulcan that year, the aircraft had no operational air-to-air refueling capabilities, and hadn’t for quite some time (White, 2012). Around the clock engineering work was required to fix the issue and install the appropriate internal refueling system, and to convert the aircrafts’ bomb bay from its current nuclear configuration, back to a conventional weapons model (Tuxford, 2016). 

With all of these modifications in place, plans were set up to support the Vulcan with a staggering eleven victor tankers to provide air-to-air refueling throughout its marathon journey to the Falklands. The goal of the mission was to drop conventional weapons on the airfield at Port Stanley, with the intention of rendering them inoperable to Argentine forces.


V-Force in Flight

At 10:30 PM on April, 30 1982, the first two Vulcan bombers fired up their engines, followed closely by a third reserve bomber, and set out for their assault on Port Stanley. Within 4 minutes of departure the lead Vulcan, XM598, flown by Squadron Leader John Reeve, experienced a major technical problem - the cabin refused to pressurize. After a valiant attempt by Reeve and his crew to jury-rig a solution, the Vulcan was forced to turn back. 

The second Vulcan bomber, XM607, commanded by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers now took the lead. Withers’ bomber took on fuel five more times before reaching the Falklands. However, an electrical storm interfered with the last refueling stop, an issue that almost jeopardized the entire operation. As the commander of the Vulcan, it fell to Withers to decide how the operation should proceed. He was quoted as saying:

“We’re short on fuel, but we’ve come this far, I’m not turning back now.”(White, 2012)


At the distance of 470 kilometers from its target, XM607 began its descent that would take it below the level of the Argentine radar system. When passing the eighty-kilometer mark from Port Stanley, Withers pulled the aircraft into a steep climb, taking the Vulcan 3,000 meters into the air in order to avoid Argentine anti-aircraft fire. 

This action brought XM607 well into the scope of the Argentine radar system. However, the radar operators never called it in, believing the Vulcan to be a friendly aircraft, due in no small part to the fact the British fleet was still thousands of miles away (Blackman, 2014).

At an altitude of 3,000-meters, and travelling at an average speed of 650km/h, the target airfield off of Port Stanley was not an easy target. At approximately 3 kilometers out from the target, the Vulcan released its payload. 

After the payload was released, Withers turned the Vulcan around and began the race back to Ascension Island before their fuel reserves ran out. There was no time to confirm the time, every second they were in the air, their fuel reserved depleted even further. Fortunately, the return trip was without incident and the aircraft touched down on at Wideawake Airfield after a record breaking 16-hour mission that covered almost 13,000 kilometers.  

The mission was a success, Withers’ crew had carried out the longest bombing run in history and struck their target, half a world away. The success of the operation produced incentive for further raids using the same plan. As a result, Withers’ initial flight became the first of seven Black Buck raids.


Successive Operations

The following seven operations were based around the successful plan of Black Buck 1. But, after losing the element of surprise, as well as the requirement to hit varied targets, none of the following operations had quite the same effect as the first (March, 2006). 

Black Buck 2 followed a plan nearly identical to the first one. However, the need to avoid Argentine anti-aircraft fire led to a higher deployment altitude of about 5,000-meters and the bombing run missed the runway completely.

Black Bucks 3 and 4 were called off due to adverse weather conditions and a refueling malfunction respectively. Black Buck 5 was intended to destroy Argentine radar installations using two Shrike Missiles, but this proved ineffective as the first missile only caused minor damage and the second missed completely. 

Black Buck 6 was intended to carry out a similar task to Black Buck 5 and was more successful. Even so, this mission is notable due to technical difficulties forcing the crew to land in Brazil, prompting their detention by the Brazilian government, which led to an international incident and a negotiation for the return of the crew (White, 2012).

The final raid, Black Buck 7 was flown on the June, 12th by XM607, again captained by Withers. This mission was intended to attack Argentine troop positions around the runway near Port Stanley, due primarily to the end of the war being in sight and the RAF desiring to use the Port Stanley runway after hostilities had ceased. Due to a misalignment, all of the bombs missed their targets. This was ultimately irrelevant as Argentina surrendered two days later (Hastings, 2016). 


Operation Summary

Table sourced from Polmar (2004).

Table sourced from Polmar (2004).

The Effectiveness of Black Buck

There has been considerable debate about the effectiveness of the operation. Some critics have described the contribution of the bombing runs as “minimal” (Ward, 1993). Although Mirage fighters were pulled back to Argentina following the raids, Argentine C-130s continued to use the runway at Port Stanley until the end of the war (White, 2012 Blackman, 2016). 

The idea that the raids caused considerable fear of an attack on the mainland has been dismissed as “propaganda” by formal royal navy commander Nigel “Sharkey” Ward. In his 1993 work Sea Harrier over the Falklands, Sharkey states:

“The Mirage IIIs were redrawn from Southern Argentina to Buenos Aires to add to the defences there following the Vulcan raids on the islands. Apparently, the logic behind this statement was that if the Vulcan could hit Port Stanley, that Buenos Aires was well within range as well and was vulnerable to similar attacks. I never went along with that baloney. A lone Vulcan or two running into attack Buenos Aires without fighter support would have been shot to hell in quick time.”


In terms of the technical success of Operation Black Buck, there is considerable doubt as to the extent that the bombing raids actually made any significant impact on Argentine operations. 

A United States Marine Corps study concluded that:

“The most critical judgment of the use of the Vulcan centers on the argument that their use was "...largely to prove [the air force] had some role to play and not to help the battle in the least." This illustrates the practice of armed services to actively seek a "piece of the action" when a conflict arises, even if their capabilities or mission are not compatible with the circumstances of the conflict. Using Black Buck as an example shows the effects of this practice can be trivial and the results not worth the effort involved.” (DeHoust, 1984)


Operation Black Buck was clearly one of the most ambitious combat operations in military aviation history. The skill of the RAF engineers and the bravery of the pilots and aircrew are made clear in the accounts of those who participated in the operation. Though the effectiveness of the operation is questionable at best, the success of such a complex and technically demanding operation means that Black Buck is rightly regarded as one of the Royal Air Force’s finest moments.


What do you think of Operation Black Buck? Let us know below.


Blackman, T. (2014). Vulcan Boys. London: Grub Street, pp.151-171.

DeHoust, W. (1984). [online] Global Security. Available at: h [Accessed 20 Aug. 2018].

Hastings, M. (2013). The Battle for the Falklands. [London]: Pan.

Holland, J. (2010). The Battle of Britain. London: bantam Press, pp.85-96.

March, P. (2006). The Vulcan Story. 2nd ed. Chalford: Sutton Publishing, pp.64-72.

Polmar, N, and Bell, D. 2004. One Hundred Years of World Military Aircraft. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Tuxford, B. (2016). Contact!: A Victor Tanker Captain's Experiences in the RAF, Before, During and After the Falklands Conflict. 1st ed. London: Grub Street Publishing, pp.122-149.

Ward, Sharkey. (1993). Sea Harrier Over the Falklands. Havertown: Pen and Sword, pp.7-12.

White, R. (2012). Vulcan 607. London: Bantam, pp.154-167.

General Juan Peron was twice President of Argentina (1946-55 and 1973-74) and his legacy, through the Peronist movement, remains strong in Argentina to this day. Here, Frank Beyer considers the importance of President Peron’s terms as President of Argentina, and how he lost power in 1955.

President Juan Peron during his 1946 inauguration.

President Juan Peron during his 1946 inauguration.

Coup d’état 

General Perón waited eighteen years to become president of Argentina again after being deposed by a coup d’étatin 1955. That’s an incredible length of time between mandates for an elected leader. Alan Garcia of Peru came close to this with sixteen years between presidencies and Mahathir Bin Mohamad, the ninety-three year old Prime Minister of Malaysia, had fourteen years out before resuming office in May 2018.

On September 19, 1955 destroyers off the coast of Mar del Plata, the second biggest port city in Argentina, aimed their guns at petrol storage tanks in the port. After firing sixty-eight shells and destroying nine out of the eleven tanks, they bombarded other strategic targets held by troops loyal to Perón’s government, such as the anti-aircraft artillery school. The citizens of Mar del Plata had been warned before this attack, so there were no civilian casualties. With the navy in full rebellion and some sections of the army wavering in their support, President Juan Domingo Perón resigned - probably with the intention of resuming office when things calmed down. 

Perón’s decision to step down was a wise one; he still had a lot of the army on his side and may have been able to win the fight but it would have caused grievous loses. In a failed coup attempt earlier in the year, planes had bombed Plaza de Mayo in the middle of the capital, Buenos Aires, and killed more than three hundred civilians. 

Argentina had been prone to coups since the overthrow of democratically elected President Yrigoyen in 1930. Already there’d been several attempts against Perón since he became president. There would be many coups after his fall, military toppling civilians governments and generals toppling generals, the last one in 1981.

When Perón came to power in 1946, Argentina was rich from exporting foodstuffs throughout World War II. Perón, first as Secretary of Labor and then President, shared some of this wealth with the workers, putting up wages, providing healthcare and introducing paid vacations. The oligarchy of landowning families had traditionally monopolized wealth in Argentina. Would free market policies have led to higher wages for workers in this time of surplus or just greater profits for the oligarchs and merchants? By 1955, however, the surplus was long gone and the economy was in turmoil.

The worst thing Perón did according to the international community was to suppress freedom of expression. He shut down the major newspaper La Prensa relatively early in his tenure when this kind of censorship seemed unnecessary because he was still very popular.

General Juan Peron in uniform, drinking coffee.

General Juan Peron in uniform, drinking coffee.


One of the many reasons for the coup of September 1955 was the deal Perón had done with Standard Oil of California. Perón was an economic nationalist: he wanted to Argentina to industrialize and be economically self-sufficient and so he was against foreign investment. This stance came from Argentina having been exploited since its inception as a sovereign nation by the British and the local oligarchy. However, Argentina’s own oil company, YPF (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Federales) did not have the capability to increase oil production significantly and Argentina was importing more and more oil as demand grew. So, in early 1955, Perón made a deal with Standard Oil, allowing it to start extracting and producing oil in Patagonia and then selling it to YPF at an agreed upon price. Once YPF’s (i.e. Argentina’s) demands were met Standard Oil could export the oil and share the profits with YPF.[1]

This deal showed the pragmatic side of Perón, the one not too hung up on ideology. Extreme elements in the army and navy were against this move though, sighting article forty of the (Peronist) constitution of 1949, which said oil reserves were an inalienable part of public property.


Second Coming

Jesus, to this point, has been smart enough not to attempt a second coming. He knows things are so out of control that he wouldn't be able to solve them - and that his YouTube channel would have too much competition. Perón was not so humble and came back from exile to be elected President in 1973 - but his movement had split into too many different factions. Peronism had become something different - many of his followers were now from leftist revolutionary youth groups. Perón was never really a leftist and now he was an old man looking for reform not revolution. To paraphrase Perón view of things:

Theliberal capitalist system of the 19th and 20th century has advanced us through science and technology more than in the ten centuries previous. But this has been done through the effort of the people and now a guy in the middle of the forest has a radio - he knows about his own sacrifice and can't accept it. We need a new system and one that compensates the people...


This comes from one of Peron’s sit downs with journalists on his return from exile in 1973 that were much better, for me, than his emotional speeches to the masses gathered in Plaza de Mayo pre 1955. Listening to him talk is a pleasure, the ultimate Argentine leader or caudillo, although old he is strong of voice and gesture, verbally dexterous and also somehow lonely and distant. He had the right idea - reform not revolution, but implementing a new system? Nigh on impossible. Peron died in 1974, his second wife Isabella took over as President, and Argentina entered into a period of ever increasing turmoil. 


What do you think of General Juan Peron? Let us know below.

[1]Robert Crasweller: Perón and the Enigmas of Argentina, New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1987


Adolf’s Hitler’s Nazis are one of the most terrible movements in history - but to what extent did they achieve what they wanted in their homeland? Here, Seth Eislund follows up from his first article for the site here, and considers whether the Nazis achieved what they wanted politically, economically, and socially within Germany itself.

Adolf Hitler addressing the German Parliament in May 1941. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-808-1238-05 / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Available  here

Adolf Hitler addressing the German Parliament in May 1941. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-808-1238-05 / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Available here

From his election as chancellor on January 30, 1933, until his suicide on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler ruled over Germany and transformed the country into a fascist, authoritarian state. Hitler’s Nazi Party imposed its nationalistic, militaristic, racist, and anti-Semitic ideology on all levels of German society, with the hope of establishing the Aryan race as master of the world. More specifically, the Nazi government imposed its views and policies on the political, economic, and social spheres of Germany, vying to establish complete control over the lives of the German people. While the Nazi regime succeeded in eliminating political opposition and quelled political dissent, it was only partially successful economically and socially. The Nazi government's economic program, the Four-Year Plan, failed to achieve its long-term goals. Furthermore, Hitler failed to obtain complete social dominance over his citizens because he couldn't fully control their religious beliefs.


The Nazi Party's Political Ascendancy

The Nazi Party succeeded in achieving total political control over Germany, as it established itself as the only legal political party in the country and ruthlessly eliminated its opponents. On July 14, 1933, the Nazis passed the Law against the Founding of New Parties, which declared the Nazi Party to be the only valid political party in Germany.[i]All other political parties were banned. As a result, this law effectively established Germany as an authoritarian single-party state, nullifying any form of political opposition. A year later, the Nazis continued their political domination of Germany by carrying out the Night of the Long Knives, which purged the Sturmabteilung (also known as the SA), the Nazi Party’s former paramilitary organization. SA leader Ernst Röhm and approximately 85 members were assassinated because the Nazis feared that the SA was a threat to the army and the state, according to historian Richard J. Evans.[ii]With his opposition in and outside of the Party eliminated, Hitler could rule Germany unopposed. Thus, the Nazis were successful in cementing complete political control over Germany, using both legal and extrajudicial methods to achieve their aims.


The Nazi Regime and Economic Success

While the Nazi regime established total political control over Germany, it was only moderately successful in achieving its economic goals. On October 18, 1936, Hermann Göring, one of the highest-ranking members of the Nazi Party, initiated the Four-Year Plan in order to reform Germany’s industrial and military production.[iii]The Nazis aimed to make Germany a self-sufficient nation, capable of producing the materials necessary for later wars and expansion. While Nazi Germany did see a rise in economic activity, employment, and the creation of munitions and explosives, the Four-Year Plan caused the production of consumer goods to suffer. With a greater focus on military production, resources were directed away from consumer goods, and Germany’s economy became weakened in the long-term.[iv]Additionally, historian Richard Overy claims that Nazi Germany was unable to establish a strong war economy, which ultimately led to its defeat in 1945.[v]Furthermore, historians Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham state that Germany was still reliant on the resources of other countries for the production of its raw materials by 1939.[vi]Therefore, while Germany was partially successful in stimulating industrial and military production, its failure to permanently establish a robust, self-sufficient economy in the military and civilian sectors ultimately led to the Nazi regime’s downfall.


The Nazi Regime and Social Control

In addition to its mixed economic success, the Nazi regime’s social goal of replacing religious devotion with devotion to Nazism was only partially realized. According to historian Richard Weikart, Adolf Hitler believed that religion had no role to play in German political and ideological life and instead wanted all Germans to believe in the Nazi Party’s ideology.[vii]The Nazi regime was successful in turning the attitudes of children in the Hitler Youth and the League of German Maidens against Catholicism and Protestantism. Historian Richard Bonney states that children in these programs broke up church youth groups and spied on Bible studies classes.[viii]While the Nazis succeeded in influencing anti-religious sentiment among children, they knew that purging religion completely from German society would be unwise. Weikart posits that while Hitler despised Christianity and organized religion in private, he dared not eliminate Catholicism and Protestantism in Germany, as doing so would turn the majority of the German people, who were Christian, against him.[ix]Thus, the Nazis were only moderately successful in achieving social control over the German people, as they required the support of religious Germans to stay in power.



Throughout its 12-year reign, the Nazi authoritarian regime attempted to achieve total control over the political, economic, and social aspects of German society with varying success. The Nazi Party was very successful in obtaining complete political control over Germany, as it legally declared itself to be the only legitimate party in the country and murdered those who opposed it. However, the Nazis only saw moderate success in controlling the economic and social spheres of Germany. While Hermann Göring’s Four-Year Plan did augment Germany’s production of industrial and military-related materials, it ultimately weakened the German economy and left the nation vulnerable to defeat in World War II. Additionally, the Nazis found some success in wielding social control over the German people by instilling anti-religious sentiment in German youth., but they didn’t eradicate religion in Germany because doing so would have resulted in a massive loss of popular support. Regardless of its economic and social shortcomings, though, the Nazi regime still held enough control over German society to incite the world’s deadliest conflict, commit a genocide that killed 11 million people, and change the course of history. Only through studying regimes such as Nazi Germany can one realize the dangers of authoritarianism, and how such systems cause horrific destruction and despair.


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

You can read Seth’s previous article for the site, on Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, here.

[i]United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Law against the Founding of New Parties," United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed  August 29, 2018,

[ii]Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power(New York: Penguin Press, 2010), 39-40.

[iii]Adam Tooze and Jamie Martin, The Cambridge History of the Second World War, ed. Michael Geyer, vol. 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 35.

[iv]"Nazi Economic, Social and Racial Policy," BBC News, November 13, 2017, accessed August 29, 2018,

[v]Brian Gray et al., Oxford IB Diploma Programme: Authoritarian States Course Companion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 210-228.


[vii]Richard Weikart, Hitler's Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich (Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, 2016), 89-95.

[viii]Richard Bonney, Confronting the Nazi War on Christianity: The Kulturkampf Newsletters, 1936-1939, 139.

[ix]Weikart, Hitler's Religion, 89.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones