Monday, March 23, 2009

Fokker E.I - E.III

Fokker Dr. I Triplane

Fokker Prototype

This is where it all began with Anthony Fokker in 1915 building the first fighter plane. The first problem that developers faced was not shooting off their own propeller. Designers fitted steel plates on to the propeller to deflect the bullets.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Arithmetic of Retribution

The Arithmetic of Retribution, from The Resistance

Early on August 25, 1944, as French Army units commanded by General Jacques Leclerc entered Paris, Captain Otto Kayser of the German General Staff watched the hectic, joyful scene from a window in the Hotel Meurice. "Paris", he reportedly said to a colleague, "is going to take vengence for these last four years." Kayser never saw his prediction come true. A few hours later, as he was being marched through the streets as a prisoner of war, a pistol-wielding Parisian burst past the prisoners' French guards and killed Kayser with a single shot in the head.

As Paris went, so went France. Everywhere, ordinary citizens heaped four years of pent-up frustration and hatred on the defeated German Occupation forces, mocking, beating and someties killing their erstwhile conquerors. They were even more violent in their attacks on Frenchmen who had done the Germans' dirty work by betraying, torturing or executing members of the Resistance. The worst collaborators were well known; underground newspapers had been blacklisting their names since 1941, and the BBC's French language service had broadcast nightly warnings that their day of reckoning was approaching. Now, with their German protectors either imprisoned or in flight, many traitors were hunted down and executed without mercy and often without a trial. During the weeks before and after the liberation, at least 11,000 collaborators were summarily executed.

The bloodbath was so widespread that the returning commander of the united Resistance forces, General de Gaulle, hastily established local tribunals to provide legal trials for the accused. After regular courts were established, 767 more citizens were executed, 39,000 received prison sentences and some 40,000 lessor collaborators were punished with "national degradation" - loss of their civil rights. Amid the welter of vindictive verdicts, the courts were surprisingly merciful to the thousands of Frenchmen who had fought for the Germans on the Eastern Front. Former members of the Legion of French Volunteers and French Waffen-SS were permitted to redeem their honor by volunteering for regular army service in Indochina.

The Degradation of German Prisoners

The Degradation of German Prisoners, from The Resistance

Amid the hysteria following liberation, Resistance workers were often in the awkward position of guarding captured German Soldiers from bloodthirsty civilians, including some whose relatives had been tortured or killed during the Occupation.

Responsible Resistance leaders prevented atrocities but gladly compelled the prisoners to do humiliating or backbreaking labor - sweeping the streets, mucking out barns, digging ditches. In many places, the Germans were forced to exhume the bodies of their French victims from unmarked graves where they had been buried without the rites of the Church.

A maquis lead in southern France ordered 30 german prisoners to recover the corpses of six tortured comrades. When the mutilated bodies were prepared for a proper burial, the captain said to the prisoners: "You may have wondered why we forced you to come here and dig up the mend you killed. We brought you here to show you what you have done. And when you go back to your own land, tell your people what you have done so that they will know why the world hates them."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Plane Pic

Pic (Picture) of Four fighter planes in formation.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Abuse and Humiliation for Collaborators

From: The Resistance, World War II

All over France, patriots celebrated liberation by rounding up collaborators and settling long over due debts of vengeance.

Physical punishments were meted out to men who had collaborated in even minor ways such as entertaining German soldiers or soliciting their business. Women who had fraternized with German soldiers suffered more humiliation than pain. Their heads were shaved, their clothes torn off, and many of them were paraded through the streets draped with signs reading: "I whored with the Boches".

Once a crowd had spent its wrath, minor collaborators were usually turned loose to be scorned and shunned by patriots for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Controversial Trials and Popular Executions

From: The Resistance, World War II

Many of the trials that followed the liberation ended in verdicts that were arbitrary and inconsistent. Prominent propagandists and journalists who had supported the occupiers were singled out for particularly harsh sentences, while little attention was paid to the economic collaborators who had amassed fortunes as contractors and suppliers for the Germans. The inequities of the purge prompted Parisians to make bitter jokes; it was said that a collaborator went free if he had built the Atlantic Wall, but went to jail if he had written that the Wall was a good idea.

There was nothing equivocal, however, about the fate of the cruel, hated troopers of the French Milice-the confederates of the Gestapo and the SS. Members of record were automatically executed - usually by firing squad.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

RAF Mission

Here is a brief passage from one of my favorite books:

On an RAF mission over the north of France in mid-1941, Flying Officer Alex Nitelet got into a vicious dogfight with several German fighters. His Spitfire was riddled, and he suffered a bullet wound in his right eye; nevertheless, Nitelet somehow managed to crash-land his damaged plane not far from the village of Renty inthe Calais area, only 50-odd miles across the Channel from Dover. The young Belgian-born pilot was lucky on two counts. Not only had he survived the crash, but he had landed practically in the lap of an underground organization that already had routed several hundred other downed airmen on a roundabout, 3,500-mile journey back to England.