Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Remebering George Kennan

George Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis: A Review
Dec 9, 2011 4:45 AM EST

The man who shaped America’s Cold War policy, George Kennan, finally gets the biography he deserves. Jacob Heilbrunn on the misunderstood visionary and what he got right.

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva—the only daughter of Josef Stalin—might seem like an unlikely friend of an American diplomat who devised the foreign-policy doctrine that helped bring down the empire her father had worked for decades to create. But Alliluyeva, who died on Nov. 22 in Wisconsin and came to see her old man as a “moral and spiritual monster,” sought out Kennan in March 1967 after she requested political asylum at the U.S. embassy in New Dehli. “I’ve been trying very hard to get in touch with Mr. Kennan. Can you tell me where he is?” she asked the CIA. Kennan met her in Switzerland. Alliluyeva was smitten. “George Kennan was tall, thin, blue-eyed, elegant,” she later wrote of their meeting at a safe house in Bern. “That hour proved that fantasies and dreams could sometimes come true.”

Kennan put her up in his version of a Russian dacha in a town in Pennsylvania called, of all things, East Berlin. The Kremlin claimed that it was all part of a plot by Kennan to besmirch the Soviet Union upon the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The truth was more prosaic. Kennan loved Russia. He wanted to do Alliluyeva a good turn and she provided him with a glimpse back into his own youth when he served in Moscow during the 1930s. Kennan had met Stalin. He had seen the gangsters around him. And so they had a lot to discuss. They became fast friends. His house reminded Alliluyeva of a prevolutionary Russian country estate. Where Kennan had analyzed Stalin decades earlier, so his daughter, as John Lewis Gaddis reports in his new biography, now turned the tables. She remonstrated in one letter, “You constantly do not allow yourself to be yourself. You’ve put yourself—and all your life—into the position of (pardon me, please!) that deadly Presbyterian Righteousness which looks `good’ only in pronouncements from the pulpit; which is based on human experiences of different era; different people; different social milieu, than yours.”

She was on to something. Kennan was perhaps the most brilliant intellectual of the past century. He was certainly the most tortured. For all the reams of books and essays written about George F. Kennan during his lifetime, it was a neighbor of his, one J. Richards Dilworth, who divined his true character: “George is ultra-conservative. He’s almost a monarchist.” Yes, the man who invented the doctrine of containment that saved the West from Stalinism in the late 1940s and prepared the road for victory in 1989 when the Soviet empire came crashing down was himself less than a democrat. He was as old school as it gets. He pined for an older, pristine America, one that wasn’t enraptured by automobiles, suburbs, commercialism, and choked by pollution and greed. He opposed American recognition of Israel and didn’t feel it was America’s duty to interfere abroad to spread democracy. He felt that America was behaving like a schoolmaster, handing out report cards to various countries, when it had no right or obligation to behave in such a high-handed fashion. It should mind its own knitting. His dream was that an elite might run America, but he probably knew that it would never happen.

In a lengthy interview with George Urban in Encounter magazine Kennan thus declared, in 1976, the year of America’s bicentennial, that “this country is destined to succumb to failures which cannot be other than tragic and enormous in their scope.” Europe, Kennan added, wasn’t in much better and could perhaps be whipped into shape if the Russians took it over: on a recent visit, he had to his horror witnessed a Danish youth festival “swarming with hippies—motorbikes, girlfriends, drugs, pornography, drunkenness, noise—it was all there. I looked at this mob and though how one company of robust Russian infantry would drive it out of town.”

And so Kennan despaired of the very country he served for decades as a foreign service officer, including stints as ambassador to Moscow and Belgrade. George H.W. Bush bestowed upon him its highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. Yet he never felt that his counsel was much appreciated.

How to fashion a coherent biography out of such a contradictory figure? John Lewis Gaddis has, against all the odds, written what surely amounts to the best study of Kennan. Gaddis, who teaches at Yale, has earned fame as a Cold War historian, but this is by far the best of his books. The writing is crisp and penetrating. His judgments are fair and astute. To a greater extent than any previous Kennan scholar, Gaddis has unpacked the man. Gaddis has performed prodigies of archival research, including drawing extensively on Kennan’s diaries, and his account is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon. Perhaps even as acerbic a critic as Kennan might have been pleased by the result.

Kennan’s melancholy was rooted in his nostalgia for the America of his youth in Wisconsin with its dirt roads, horses, and lack of telephones. Kennan was born on Feb. 16, 1904. A month later his mother died of a ruptured appendix. He missed her all his life, noting in his memoirs that he had been “deeply affected, and in a certain sense scarred for life” by her death. His father, a lawyer, was an austere and distant presence who shipped his son off to a local military academy. The ancestor that young George identified with was his namesake—George Frost Kennan, who had traveled through Siberia in the 1865 and earned renown as a Russia expert. Kennan wrote, “I feel that I was in some strange way to carry forward [his] work.”

As an undergraduate at Princeton, the shy Kennan didn’t really fit in with the young swells. When he asked a fellow freshman at the first students assembly what time it was, Gaddis writes, “the young dandy took a puff on his cigarette, blew some smoke, and then walked away, searing himself into George’s consciousness.” Kennan blossomed when he entered the Foreign Service. Here his facility with languages helped him immeasurably. He was stationed in Germany, where he experienced the tumult of the Weimar Republic. A stint in the Baltics, where he learned Russian, prepared him for his big break. After Franklin Roosevelt’s election, America established diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R. in 1934. Kennan served at the embassy under Amb. William Bullitt, who arrived with high hopes for good relations with the Soviet Union, but soon became a hardened anti-communist. Bullitt was followed in 1937 by the pro-Soviet American businessman Joseph E. Davies, who admired Stalin and said that the purge trials were legitimate. Kennan cringed at his imbecilities. He left Moscow for Prague, just as the Nazis were about to annex it. After the invasion of Poland in 1939, Kennan was transferred to Berlin, where he got to see the Nazi regime up close until Germany declared war on America. He was stuck in an internment camp until May 1942.

It was the new American ambassador to Moscow, W. Averell Harriman, who insisted that Kennan return to the besieged city in 1943 to assist him in his duties. Harriman played a key role in dealing with Britain and America’s wartime ally. Kennan regarded Harriman as too conciliatory in dealing with Stalin. As Kennan saw it, Franklin Roosevelt harbored illusions about the true nature and character of the man he liked to call “Uncle Joe.” Kennan knew that he was most unavuncular.

To vent his frustrations, Kennan would periodically pen attacks on American policy toward the Soviet Union. One such was a eight-page personal letter he sent in 1945 to his friend Charles “Chip” Bohlen, who was with FDR at Yalta, the next to last meeting of the “Big Three”—Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill. Kennan clearly saw the looming division of Europe. Why not, he mused, cut a deal with Stalin and divide Europe into “spheres of influence—keep ourselves out of the Russian sphere and keep the Russians out of ours?” Of course that's what was happening even if the Americans did not want to admit it.

Still, Kennan was convinced that the Soviet Union could swallow but not digest Eastern Europe. His reading of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had convinced him of that. He liked to cite Gibbon’s line about the “unnatural task of holding in submission distant peoples.” Kennan expounded upon his views in what became known as the “Long Telegram” of February 1946. At a moment when official Washington was casting about for a coherent response to Stalin’s bellicosity, Kennan’s lucubrations were almost miraculously well timed. They hit like a thunderbolt. Kennan’s message was simple—don’t try to be chummy with the Soviets. Kennan added that from the Soviet perspective war with the capitalist West was inevitable. Indeed, Russia had become a dangerous compound of medieval authoritarianism combined with a chiliastic Marxist-Leninist ideology. Kennan expanded upon this message in what became his famous “X” article in Foreign Affairs, published in 1947. But for all his stern language, Kennan was not espousing war with Moscow. Instead, his point was that panic about Stalin was misplaced because Soviet Russia could be contained.

Kennan would later complain that his idea was debauched by the Truman administration. He didn’t mean for America to become a global empire. The military didn’t have to be the prime means of countering the Soviets. But Secretary of State Dean Acheson took a harder line. Kennan became an outsider, a critic of the nuclear arms race that began under the Truman administration and seemed to take on a life of its own, as each side amassed more and more atomic weaponry. As Kennan saw it, more efforts should have been made to bring about a reunification of Germany in the early 1950s. Stalin, for example, had submitted a note in 1952 suggesting that the question of German reunification should be addressed. But the West Germans saw it as a dangerous ploy to create a neutral Germany, one that would have been shorn of its membership in NATO and permanently vulnerable to Soviet blandishments and threats. Most historians now agree that the note was not meant seriously.
For all of Kennan’s misgivings about Truman administration policies, he had served as head of the policy planning staff. What’s more, it was the Republican right that truly loathed containment, which it saw as tantamount to appeasement. Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles accepted Kennan’s resignation in 1953 and thundered about the rollback of communism. Kennan was crushed. He had thought that the new administration “would still attach value to my opinions and to the preservation of a mutual relationship of cordiality and understanding.” But this was out of the question after Kennan delivered a talk before the Pennsylvania State Bar Association in January in which he denounced the idea of the “liberation” of Eastern Europe. It was, he said, “replete with possibilities for misunderstanding and bitterness.”

At bottom Kennan was a realist. He didn’t believe in demonizing other countries. What he believed in was a 19th-century balance of power. But his was essentially a negative view of international relations as a permanent struggle for power. It was Ronald Reagan, Gaddis suggests, who managed to move from containment to a true understanding with Moscow. Kennan, Gaddis writes, “despaired constantly, whatever he was doing. So Kennan turned himself into a complication, leaving it to Reagan to bring his strategy to a successful conclusion.”

Perhaps so. But Kennan would doubtless be alarmed by the current state of American foreign affairs in which triumph in the Cold War was soon converted by neoconservatives into a vainglorious triumphalism that led to Iraq. Kennan, as Gaddis tell us, saw further into the future than his peers. He helped win the Cold War for a country that he would probably now disown more than ever.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Mystery of Jan Msaryk's Murder in Czechoslovakia 1948

Born: Sept. 14, 1886, in Prague
Father: Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia
Office: Served as foreign minister during World War II in the London-based exile government of President Edvard Benes. Returned after the war and continued to serve as foreign minister.
Died: March 10, 1948. Found dead after falling 14.5 (47.5 feet) meters from his bathroom window at the Cernin Palace.
Cause of death: After 55 years police have officially ruled his death a murder.

Masaryk death theory draws fire
Prague Post
Posted: January 15, 2004
By Kevin Livingston

Investigator claims he's proven murder; critics reject conclusion

Three years ago police investigator Ilja Pravda was handed the most important case of his career. His task: Solve one of Prague's great, tragic mysteries, the 1948 death of Jan Masaryk.

Just before the New Year the wiry, middle-aged detective announced his findings. Stating what many already believed but none were able to state categorically, Pravda asserted that Masaryk, the former foreign minister and son of the father of Czechoslovak independence, was pushed out of his apartment window at the Cernin Palace in the wake of the 1948 communist coup.

Pravda's conclusion has startled a country that for 55 years has lived in the shadow of Masaryk's death and the communist legacy it symbolized. But if the detective is convinced he has closed the case, not everyone is prepared to go along.

Since Pravda went public with his conclusion, historians and the media have attacked him for carrying out what many say was a flawed and hasty investigation. Pravda's inability to identify Masaryk's murderer has also put his probe under suspicion.

Pravda shakes off the criticism. Looking over his files in his spartan space at the Office to Document and Investigate Communist Crimes, he says his findings are based on direct and indisputable evidence and have been accepted by the state attorney's office. Having brought to bear on the case the science of forensic biomechanics - the study of how a body falls - he says, "It was without a doubt murder."

Falling down

Just how Masaryk came to fall 14.5 meters (47.5 feet) from his bathroom window has raised questions for more than half a century.

The official 1948 autopsy ruled Masaryk's death a suicide. Many close to Masaryk, including his private secretary, have never wavered in their belief that the son of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak president, jumped in a fit of depression.

But the prevailing theory has always been that Jan Masaryk was pushed, most likely by secret police officers. Even Rude Pravo, the official Communist Party newspaper, editorialized in 1968 that the circumstances surrounding the case were suspicious.

Masaryk was the only non-Communist minister who did not resign when the party, led by Klement Gottwald, seized power in 1948. Masaryk's death just two weeks after the putsch would forever label him the first victim of the country's totalitarian dictatorship.

Pravda's is the fourth official investigation into Masaryk's death and the only one to assert foul play. The first, in 1948, ruled the death a suicide. Another carried out during the Prague Spring thaw of 1968 and a post-revolution probe in the early 1990s did not alter that finding.

Pravda says he believed it was a case of murder but lacked the hard evidence to prove it. "There was still the possibility that it was a suicide," he says. "I could not exclude it at the beginning."

Lacking surviving witnesses, Pravda turned to Jiri Strauss, a forensic expert at the nation's police academy. For a month Strauss studied Masaryk's fall, concluding that at least one other person had to be involved.

Among the indicators: Masaryk was facing the building as he fell, a circumstance inconsistent with suicide. Pravda says there were also signs that Masaryk might have been killed before being dumped out the window. He says sperm found on Masaryk's body and traces of feces found on the windowsill were consistent with death by suffocation, which causes a loss of control of bodily functions.

Masaryk's feet-first departure from the window and the lack of signs of a struggle indicate that he was rendered unconscious first, Pravda says. "The fall was definitely from a push," he says. "I agree with the forensic expert that it was a murder."

Although Pravda is confident he has pinpointed the cause of death, it will likely never be known who was responsible. Although the names of four secret police officers have been bandied about in connection with the case, Pravda says there is no evidence to prove who was behind Masaryk's fall: "I don't have a murderer."

Not a detective story

The absence of a perpetrator is just one reason critics have called for a cautious assessment of Pravda's report. Newspapers and historians have argued vehemently since Pravda released his findings that the forensic evidence is not sufficient to label the case a murder, and that the investigator was too quick to rule the case a homicide.

Writing in Hospodarske noviny, historian Pavel Kosatik said it is impossible to conclude strictly from the forensic evidence that Masaryk was killed. Kosatik points out that the body was moved after impact, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly how Masaryk fell.

Noting that Pravda actually carried out two forensic analyses of the fall and that one concluded that Masaryk was not pushed (which Pravda has acknowledged), Kosatik asked why the detective chose to base his announcement on only one of the studies. And he pointed out that investigators have not had access to documents in the Russian archives that could clear up the mystery.

While it is possible that Masaryk was killed, Kosatik wrote, it can't be concluded from Pravda's report, which he termed "shameful."

"It is not a detective story where everyone can come up with their own fantasy," the historian wrote. "It is an important and tragic event in our history."

Did the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk commit suicide in 1948?

Posted in Communism, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Politics on Tuesday, 7 August 2012

This edited article about Jan Masaryk originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 760 published on 7th August 1975

One of the most horrifying forms of assassination, once well known in mid-Europe, is called by the rather ugly name of defenestration. It means simply that the victim is hurled to his death through an open window. And it was a word that leapt back into the minds of the Czechoslovak people when they heard that their popular Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk, had been found dead beneath the windows of his ministerial apartment in the Czernin Palace, in Prague.

“Jan Masaryk committed suicide during the night,” announced the new Communist cabinet of the Czech government. No one believed it. Masaryk was not a communist and was known to be very concerned about the way the Communists were seizing power in Czechoslovakia. Everyone guessed that he did not fall, but was pushed.

While the Czechs wept openly in the streets for the loss of a much-loved statesman, the Communist government laid out the body for an official lying-in-state and a funeral with full national honours. Filing past the open coffin, the mourners noticed a bunch of snowdrops placed close to Masaryk’s right ear.

Who put them there? The dead man’s secretary announced that they had been set in position to hide the stitching marks after the autopsy. Other people whispered darkly that the flowers concealed a bullet hole.

But the newspapers all over the world in that early spring of 1948 were treating Masaryk’s death as the Czech government hoped they would – as an unfortunate case of suicide. It was not until many years later that all sorts of questions began to be asked – questions which led to the suspicion that assassination was much more likely than suicide.

Jan Masaryk was a complex man. He was 61 and the son of Thomas Masaryk, the first President of the Czechoslovak Republic. From his father he had learned his ideals of liberal democracy and individual freedom, over which the new Communist regime was trampling like an elephant.

The events that were to lead to Masaryk’s death, however, began in September, 1938, when the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, sought to avoid the oncoming Second World War by handing Czechoslovakia over to the Nazis by agreeing to their invasion of the country. Britain’s failure to go to war for his country grieved and angered Masaryk, and the Munich crisis etched deep lines of worry into his face.

Britain and France had failed to defend the Czechs against Hitler, but a year later had to declare war on the Nazis.

All through that bitter war, Masaryk and other free Czechs toiled to liberate their country. The peace of 1945 seemed to be the harbinger of a return to democratic freedom. But that was not to happen. The Russians, who liberated the Czechs from Nazi rule in the last year of the war, and ravaged it while doing so, left in their wake a Communist influence which grew more and more powerful.

Back in Prague, his capital, Masaryk became Foreign Minister. But in place of subservience to Berlin he found that the new Czech government, which included seven highly-placed Communists, was becoming daily more and more subservient to Moscow.

It was from Moscow that the Czech Government was told what to do. It was from Moscow that the order was given for the Czechs to break with the free Western world.

Then, in February, 1948, the Communists staged a complete take-over of the country by purging all non-Communists from power. It began when the Communist Prime Minister, Klement Gottwald, dismissed all the senior police officers and replaced them with Communist Party members.

Gottwald knew that this would cause a furore of protest from among the non-Communist ministers. He was right. Twelve of them tendered their resignations.

“There will have to be a new Government,” he told the feeble old President Eduard Benes; and when he formed it, it was, of course, a Communist-dominated one. The way was now open for all non-Communists to be purged from the country’s administration.

What was Masaryk to do now? He was surrounded by danger. Although he had agreed to join Gottwald’s new Government, he knew that the Prime Minister did not want him and only offered him a ministry because of his popularity with the people. And Masaryk was aware that in this situation a non-Communist who was popular with the people would be regarded as a danger to the government.

On 9th March, a month after Gottwald’s coup, Masaryk was told he would be expected to attend the swearing-in of the new Cabinet the next day. Sadly he told a secretary: “I’m afraid I won’t go there any more.”

What did that mean? The Communists later alleged that Masaryk was planning to flee to the West. Although he must have known that flight was the only way to save his life, there would have been no-one left to fight for democracy in Czechoslovakia.

Another view of that cryptic remark was that Masaryk was already planning suicide in despair at the campaign that had been organised against him in the West for joining the Communist Government.

That March 9 was a day of meetings and political business with the Communists and in the evening Masaryk went home to his ministerial apartment in the Czernin Palace. In the pale morning light of the next day his smashed body lay on the courtyard flagstones.

In the months that followed the Foreign Minister’s State funeral, ten people who were supposedly connected with “the Masaryk affair” died mysteriously. Two were executed, one shot, one tortured to death, one sentenced to 25 years imprisonment and three died suddenly.

Not surprisingly, therefore, anyone who knew anything wasn’t eager to talk. In fact, 20 years passed before Karel Straka, a former clerk at the Czech Foreign Office, told how he had found Masaryk’s body in the courtyard.

“It was clear to me that it was neither an accident nor suicide,” Straka said. He recalled that, during the night of Masaryk’s death, telephones at the palace had suddenly gone dead for no apparent reason. Then, just as suddenly, they had come back to life. A whole fleet of cars had been heard arriving in the driveway, and hours later they left.

Straka had been on duty that night. He recalled it well because suddenly his room at the palace had been locked on the outside. Later, someone had unlocked it. All this had happened only hours before Jan Masaryk, the man most feared by the Communists, had been found dead.

Someone else remembered that night, too, someone who later testified to an enquiry but who insisted on remaining anonymous. According to this witness, Masaryk was leaving the Czernin Palace on the morning of 9th March when a tall man in a leather coat approached him and urged him not to return to the palace that evening.

“I am to take you to safety,” he told Masaryk.

“Where is safety?” Masaryk asked.

“I have to fly you to England,” was the reply.

Masaryk shook his head. “I was in England long enough,” he said, “My place is here now and I shall either win or be destroyed.”

That evening, when Masaryk returned to the palace, the leather-coated man was still there. “For your own safety, I beg you to leave with me at once,” he said. “Tell your driver to take us to the airport now!”

Masaryk replied: “I am still a Minister of State, and I have to go to the Czernin Palace. Come and see me tomorrow.”

The man answered: “That will be too late.”

Hours later, some time after 11 p.m. when Masaryk had drunk a cup of tea before going to bed, the final drama began. What happened can only be pieced together by an analysis of the evidence.

Masaryk’s dead body, it has since been revealed, was a mass of bruises, cuts and scratches. There was physical evidence that moments before his death he was in a state of extreme terror.

If Masaryk had jumped from the window in order to commit suicide, he could not possibly have landed 12 feet (over 3 metres) away from the wall of the building, which was where his body was found.

A doctor later testified that he found a bullet wound in Masaryk’s head, caused by a 7.65 calibre revolver. There were scorch marks around it, indicating that it had been fired at close range.

But no revolver was found in Masaryk’s apartment, nor was there a suicide note. Instead, there was a state of disarray.

The window from which Masaryk was supposed to have jumped was ominously closed. And observers quickly noted that it would have been impossible for a man of Masaryk’s size to have fallen accidentally out of a window that was so much smaller than he was.

At 7.30 a.m. on 10th March, the day the body was found, the autopsy was conducted under the supervision of three secret policemen, who formed a ring around the corpse during the examination. The doctor who conducted the post mortem was chosen by the police and was a Party member. The wording of the post mortem report was dictated to him.

It was not until 1968 – 20 years after Masaryk’s death – that a new Czech Communist government which was attempting to “liberalise” Czech Communism under Prime Minister Anton Dubcek, held an enquiry to establish these facts and to cast extreme doubt on the official suicide verdict. Dubcek and his government, however, did not last for long, and the new mood of liberalism was hastily obliterated by orders from Moscow.

Enough was already known by then, however, to make an inspired rational estimate of how Jan Masaryk was assassinated by the Soviet Secret Police – and how he became one more victim of the tyranny of Russian imperialism.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pearl Harbor Day: How did Adolf Hitler react to the attack?

Pearl Harbor Day: How did Adolf Hitler react to the attack?

At the time of the attack, Japan was already one of the Axis powers, but Adolf Hitler did not know of its plans. On Pearl Harbor Day, a look back at the Führer's response - and subsequent miscalculation.

By Peter Grier, Staff writer / December 7, 2011


Exactly 70 years ago Japan hit Pearl Harbor with one of the most stunning surprise attacks in history. At the time Japan was already one of the Axis powers, linked with Italy and Germany. Given that, how did the Führer, Adolf Hitler, react?

Hitler did not know of the Pearl Harbor plan beforehand. When informed in his headquarters on the evening of Dec. 7 of the strike and the damage suffered by US forces, he was “delighted,” according to British historian Ian Kershaw.

“We can’t lose the war at all. We now have an ally which has never been conquered in 3,000 years,” a jubilant Hitler said, as recounted in Mr. Kershaw’s authoritative biography of the German leader.

This comment was typical of Hitler in that it was both grandiose and a touch self-delusional. In fact, Hitler viewed the Japanese through the lens of his own racial prejudice. In “Mein Kampf” he patronizingly wrote that Japanese scientific and technical progress would cease without “Aryan” influence. His top lieutenants recalled that he accepted Japanese gains in the Far East with some resignation, and occasionally warned that eventually Germany would find itself in a showdown with what he called the “yellow race.”

But for Hitler, the Japanese triumph at Pearl Harbor came at an opportune time. Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, had stalled. On Dec. 6, the Soviets had launched a counterattack that would eventually save Moscow and doom Hitler’s dream of an empire in the East.

Thus Hitler seized on Pearl Harbor as a light in the general gloom. His assumption was that the Japanese would now tie down the United States in the Pacific and weaken Britain by threatening its Asian possessions, according to Kershaw.

Germany and Japan had already agreed on a strengthening of their existing Tripartite Pact, which would bind each to declare war on a power attacking the other. This provision had not been formally signed, however, meaning that Hitler by treaty was required only to aid Japan, not enter the war against the United States.

But for Hitler this was a foregone conclusion – he wanted to ensure that Japan would stay in the war, and perhaps invade Russia from the east. He also felt that war with the US was inevitable, and he wanted to take the initiative. On Dec. 8, he ordered German U-boats to sink US ships on sight.

In a lengthy speech to the Reichstag on Dec. 11, Hitler recounted recent military events, excoriated President Roosevelt, and declared war on the United States. Given that US public opinion was far harsher about Japan than Germany, this was a mistake, writes British journalist and historian Max Hastings in his history of World War II, “Inferno.”

“Four days after Pearl Harbor, [Hitler] made the folly of the strike comprehensive by declaring war on the United States, relieving Roosevelt from a serious uncertainty about whether Congress would agree to fight Germany,” writes Mr. Hastings.

The Japanese, for their part, had begun the war with the US in the belief that Nazi Germany was an unstoppable force that would soon conquer the Soviet Union and end the war in Europe. So the Axis powers lurched forward, each blind to the particular strategic situation they now faced.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

3 Enduring Mysteries of Pearl Harbor


Pearl Harbor Day 2011: three enduring mysteries

On Pearl Harbor Day, historians continue to debate the mysteries of Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attack created some of the great unanswered questions of military history.

Pearl Harbor. In the United States, the name alone means surprise, defeat, and the rise of common purpose from ashes. Seventy years on, the Japanese surprise attack on US forces assembled in Hawaii remains one of the American people’s most powerful historic memories.

Every year on Dec. 7 the nation pauses to remember the 2,400 US personnel who died that day, and the generation of ordinary citizens which picked up Pearl Harbor’s fallen flag and fought to victory in World War II.

“We look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength set by the example of these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedom,” said President Obama in his proclamation for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2011.

But seven decades later, Pearl Harbor also remains a mystery. More specifically, it remains an event that has produced some of the great unanswered questions of military history.

Why did the Japanese attack a nation whose industrial might was an order of magnitude larger? Why didn’t the US see the signs that a strike was coming? Who in the US chain of command was most responsible for American unpreparedness?

Today, historians continue to debate many of Pearl Harbor’s puzzles, producing new evidence and theories. Here are just a few of those continued conundrums.

Why weren't US bases on alert?

The first wave of Japanese aircraft hit Pearl Harbor at about 8 a.m. local time on Dec. 7, 1941. Within hours, Japanese forces also struck the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, and other Pacific targets. US units everywhere were taken by surprise.

“The nakedness of America’s Pacific bases continues to puzzle posterity,” writes British journalist and historian Max Hastings in his gripping new history of World War II, “Inferno.”

Mr. Hastings dismisses claims that President Franklin Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to be attacked to draw the US into war. But he says it is nonetheless “extraordinary” that the US political and military leadership did not ensure that Pearl Harbor and other Pacific bases were on full precautionary footing.

The late Gordon Prange, a University of Maryland professor who was perhaps America’s foremost authority on the attack, believed that the core problem was that the US government did not in its heart believe that its own warnings about imminent Japanese aggression were true.

“This fundamental disbelief is the root of the whole tragedy,” concluded Mr. Prange in his book, “At Dawn We Slept.”

A congressional committee conducted extensive hearings into the Pearl Harbor disaster after the war ended. Among its conclusions were that Army forces were so focused on training they lost sight of possible attack – and that Army commanders were so worried about sabotage they locked up anti-aircraft ammunition rather than distribute it to gun sites. The Navy did not maintain aircraft patrols at sea due to lack of equipment – but neither did commanders order a picket line of surface ships instead.

In the current issue of Naval History, a journal of the US Naval Institute, historians Jonathan Parshall and J. Michael Wenger argue that an overlooked answer to the question of why the US was surprised is that US commanders did not understand how quickly aircraft carrier warfare was evolving.

The Pearl Harbor strike plan involved the melding of planes from many carriers into a hornet swarm of attackers. That was a skill the US did not know the Japanese military possessed.

“The US Navy had no real inkling of Japanese carrier warfare capabilities and therefore could not accurately assess likely operational targets,” write Messrs. Parshall and Wenger.

Why didn't the Japanese press their advantage?

After two waves of aircraft devastated Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row and US air bases, Japanese pilots returned to their carriers in triumph. Adm. Chuichi Nagumo then led a discussion on whether another attack was feasible. Many air commanders supported such a follow-up, believing that fuel dumps, repair shops, and other US logistical sites were now vulnerable.

A cautious commander, Nagumo decided against more action. It would have required reloading aircraft on deck at sea at a time when the location of US carriers and submarines was unknown. Japanese forces had already won a spectacular victory. Why waste that gain?

“Nagumo’s decision to turn back came as a disappointment to many of his airmen, who wanted to exploit their opportunity,” wrote Prange.

Destruction of Pearl Harbor’s infrastructure might have forced the US to withdraw its naval forces to the US West Coast. For decades, some historians have argued that Nagumo missed an opportunity that maybe, just maybe, could have turned the course of the war.

However in his book, “Inferno,” Max Hastings argues that new research shows a follow-on attack was not feasible.

“The winter day was too short to launch and recover [another wave of aircraft], and in any event Japanese bomb loads were too small to plausibly wreck Pearl’s repair bases,” Mr. Hastings writes.
What would have happened if the US had won the battle?

How would the world have been different if US forces had been on alert that Sunday morning in December? After all, it would have taken only a few hours' early warning to perhaps reverse the battle’s decision. US fighters would have been aloft and anti-aircraft batteries alerted. They could have taken a large toll on Japan’s incoming planes.

Today’s conventional wisdom is that Japan, in winning the battle, lost the war. Many of the ships destroyed at Pearl were refloated and rebuilt for later fights. Most important, a US public that had been divided over entry into the war became united at a stroke.

“No more did Americans ask whose fight it was or question what they should do about it,” wrote Prange.

As Prange also notes, it is likely that the US would have entered World War II at some point even if Pearl Harbor never happened. Whether US civilians would have universally supported such a move in the absence of a surprise attack is a great historical unknown.

As to what might have happened if the Pacific Fleet had repulsed its attackers, it’s quite possible that the fleet’s commander, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, would have launched his battleships and carriers out on a mission to catch and destroy the Japanese, writes Ohio State University military historian Mark Grimsley.

Kimmel was an offensive-minded commander who dreamed of replicating the victories of the great British admirals of the past. Within several weeks he could have gathered US naval power near Wake Island for a possibly decisive encounter.

Both sides would have had eight battleships available for a fight, writes Mr. Grimsley. The Japanese would have had a slight edge in aircraft carriers, but the US would have benefited from land-based planes from Wake Island bases.

The outcome would have been impossible to predict. A US victory could have greatly shortened the Pacific War. But “a decisive American defeat would have been far worse than the historical Pearl Harbor attack,” writes Grimsely. “Most of the vessels damaged or sunk [at Pearl] were subsequently repaired and returned to action, whereas any warships lost in the Central Pacific would have disappeared beneath thousands of feet of water,” writes Grimsley on Military History magazine’s website.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Transcript of 1944 Bretton Woods Conference Found at Treasury

Transcript of 1944 Bretton Woods Conference Found at Treasury - International Monetary Fund and World Bank Beginnings Reappraised (
(Pic: Acting Secretary of State Dean Acheson, standing at center, and representatives of 28 Allied nations met in Washington in 1945 to sign the pact reached at the Bretton Woods conference. )

NY Times

WASHINGTON — A Treasury economist rummaging in the department’s library has stumbled on a historical treasure hiding in plain sight: a transcript of the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 that cast the foundations of the modern international monetary syste

Historians had never known that a transcript existed for the event held in the heat of World War II, when delegates from 44 allied nations fighting Hitler gathered in the mountains of New Hampshire to create the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But there were three copies in archives and libraries around Washington that had never been made public, until now.

“It’s as if someone handed us Madison’s notes on the debate over the Constitution,” said Eric Rauchway, a historian the University of California, Davis.

Economic historians who have viewed the transcript say it adds color and detail to the historical record, an already thick one given the many contemporaneous and subsequent accounts of Bretton Woods. The transcript seems to contain no great surprises, but it sheds light on the intense debates as the war raged abroad.

It depicts John Maynard Keynes, the British economist, hurrying to marshal support for the broad agreements on international finance. It underscores the tremendous power then wielded by Britain and, especially, the United States. It also shows the seeds of contemporary disputes being sown.

For instance, seven decades ago, a number of poorer or smaller countries were protesting their International Monetary Fund quotas, which determine power in the fund. Many of those countries, including China and India, are still pushing for more influence today.

In one section of the transcript, an American representative lays out a proposal for apportioning power in the fund and underscores what was at stake, with the war coming to its bloody climax in Europe.

“We fight together on sodden battlefields. We sail together on the majestic blue. We fly together in the ethereal sky,” said Fred M. Vinson, who later became chief justice of the United States. “The test of this conference is whether we can walk together, solve our economic problems, down the road to peace as we today march to victory.”

But the response was not one of absolute unity.

“In spite of the very eloquent and moving speech of the United States delegate, on behalf of the Iranian delegation I wish to state that the quota proposed for my country is entirely unsatisfactory,” a delegate from Tehran responded.

Then, a delegate from China added: “I hesitate greatly to sound a note of discord at this conference. It has been the effort of the Chinese delegation to promote harmony and the success of this great common enterprise. But every delegation has its difficulties.”

The Netherlands, Greece, Australia, India, Yugoslavia, New Zealand, France, Ethiopia, Norway and Britain then added their comments and objections. “I think that a lot of people have thought of Bretton Woods as being a stitch-up job between United Kingdom and the United States,” Mr. Rauchway said. “But that’s overstated, and it’s definitely visible in this transcript. You can see the poorer countries fighting their own corner.”

Kurt Schuler a Treasury Department economist, was browsing in an “out of the way” section of uncataloged material in the library two years ago when he came across the Bretton Woods document. He flipped through and saw some remarks by Keynes that he was not familiar with, sort of the economists’ equivalent of a Bob Dylan fan finding unknown lyrics.

“I checked them against Keynes’s collected works,” Mr. Schuler said. “And I knew I had something.”

His research revealed that there were three copies of the transcript that scores of economic historians were not aware of: the version at the Treasury Department; one in the National Archives; and the third in the International Monetary Fund archives.

In his spare time, Mr. Schuler set about turning the yellowed transcript into a book, with a co-editor, Andrew Rosenberg. It took a tremendous amount of work, Mr. Schuler said. They read the transcript aloud into transcription software. They added hyperlinks to documents referenced at the conference, and wrote summaries, annotations and historical notes.

This week, the polished transcript was published as an 800-page e-book by the Center for Financial Stability, a nonprofit group based in New York that researches financial markets, where Mr. Schuler is a senior fellow and Mr. Rosenberg a research associate.

“Everyone thinks they know what happened at Bretton Woods, but what they know has been filtered by generations of historical accounts,” Barry Eichengreen, a professor or economics and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. “International monetary history will never be the same.”

The transcript provides “insight in how it was that they were able to maintain a pace of work which allowed them to reach two really big agreements, on the I.M.F. and the World Bank, within a space of three weeks,” Mr. Schuler said. “Keynes was something of a task master,” he added.

Benn Steil, a senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, said readers can see the British Empire “disintegrating before your eyes,” in the transcript. “The Indians are so vociferous that the British are ripping them off. The British are both furious and mortified that their colony would do this to them,” he said, describing a dispute over debts with the colonies.

“Bretton Woods was itself 95 percent Kabuki theater,” he said. “But it’s interesting Kabuki theater.”

John Maynard Keynes addressed the Bretton Woods conference, where the International Monetary Fund was created.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sihanouk : Political Broker

Political broker

Born in 1922, Sihanouk was the eldest son of King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Kossamak.

Educated at French schools in Saigon and in Paris, the Nazi-controlled Vichy government in France crowned Sihanouk king of Cambodia in 1941, bypassing his father in the hope that the 18-year-old could easily be manipulated.

However, after the war Sihanouk embarked on an international campaign aimed at ensuring independence for Cambodia.

It was achieved without bloodshed in 1953 - after nearly a century of French rule. Two years later Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father and became both prime minister and foreign minister of his country.

He tried - but failed - to keep the country from the Cold War conflict that engulfed South East Asia in the 1970s.

When a US-backed coup installed Lon Nol as Cambodia's leader, Sihanouk - by then alienated by US bombing raids on Vietnamese communist guerrillas inside Cambodia - was forced into exile in Beijing.

It was from there that he struck an ill-fated deal with the emerging Maoist rebel force, the Khmer Rouge. When the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, Sihanouk returned as head of state but was subsequently detained.

He remained confined to the royal palace for most of the four years of the regime's rule, during which time an estimated 1.7 million people died.

People were killed or worked and starved to death, as the Khmer Rouge emptied cities and forced Cambodians to work on the land.

Sihanouk later condemned the Khmer Rouge for the deaths of the Cambodians, including of several of his own children.

When Vietnamese forces ousted the Khmer Rouge, Sihanouk went again to Beijing. He was to remain outside the country for 13 years, as Cambodia faced civil war and the struggle to rebuild from economic devastation.

When the UN in 1991 persuaded the Vietnamese to withdraw and set Cambodia on the road to democracy, Sihanouk returned, and was again crowned king in 1993.

His role was increasingly one of broker between Cambodia's warring political factions. But as the country slowly worked its way towards political stability, Sihanouk's health steadily worsened.

In 2004, he announced he would step down in favour of one of his sons, the little-known Norodom Sihamoni. The former ballet dancer was crowned king in October 2004.

After that, Sihanouk spent much of his time overseas, in Beijing and Pyongyang.

But he remained a prominent national figure who - although criticised as autocratic and elitist, and blamed by some for his initial endorsement of the Khmer Rouge - symbolised constancy through Cambodia's years of violence.

Obituary: Cambodia former king Norodom Sihanouk dies aged 89

Cambodia former king Norodom Sihanouk dies aged 89

Unpredictable, ebullient, mercurial, autocratic, self-indulgent - these are just some of the descriptions applied over the years to former King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.

Married six times and the father of at least 14 children, a saxophone player, a song writer, a film maker, a bon vivant who loved French cooking and wines, Sihanouk was never afraid of appearing eccentric.

"Cambodians are all naughty boys, and that includes me," he once said.

Yet beneath all the joking and indulgence was a master politician and leader who frequently changed allegiances but always tried to preserve the unity of his country and prevent it being gobbled up by the big powers.

Sihanouk was born in 1922, the eldest son of King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Kossamak.

Educated at French schools in Saigon and in Paris, the Nazi controlled Vichy government in France crowned Sihanouk king of Cambodia in 1941, bypassing his father in the hope that the 18 year old could easily be manipulated.

However, after the war Sihanouk embarked on an international campaign aimed at ensuring independence for Cambodia.

Despite being rebuffed by the US, whose policies towards Indo China Sihanouk was always scathing about, Cambodia won its freedom in 1953.

It was achieved without bloodshed after nearly a century of French rule. Two years later Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father and became both prime minister and foreign minister of his country.

Khmer Rouge deal

For the next 10 years, he successfully steered Cambodia on a neutral course. However, as the war in Vietnam escalated, Sihanouk became more critical of America, accusing Washington-supported South Vietnamese troops of repeated incursions into Cambodian territory.

Meanwhile, Washington accused Sihanouk of allowing North Vietnamese troops passage through his country.

In March 1970, while Sihanouk was visiting the Soviet Union, General Lon Nol, then Cambodian Prime Minister, seized control of the government with American help.

Sihanouk went into exile in Beijing and threw his support behind the Khmer Rouge guerrillas who were emerging as a considerable fighting force.

When the Khmer Rouge moved into Phnom Penh in 1975, Sihanouk returned as head of state. He was criticised for acting as the chief apologist for the murderous Khmer Rouge regime and its leader Pol Pot.

Later Sihanouk, who spent much of the Pol Pot era a virtual prisoner in the royal palace, said he was unaware of the Khmer Rouge's worst excesses which included the killing of about one million Cambodians.

Among those who died were five of Sihanouk's own children, and at least 15 grandchildren. In early 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and, once again, Sihanouk fled into exile in China.

For the next decade, Sihanouk worked from his bases in China and North Korea to expel the Vietnamese from Cambodia. He refused to break with the Khmer Rouge who still held much military power.

'Tragic hero'

In 1990, the Vietnamese withdrew. Sihanouk was at the centre of complex negotiations involving royalists, the Khmer Rouge and Hun Sen, the Vietnamese-backed prime minister, to form a new government.

Though he cajoled and joked his way through these talks - Sihanouk occasionally brought his poodle to the negotiations - his performance was judged by many to be a triumph of diplomacy.

In 1991, Sihanouk was appointed president, then two years later, amid the numerous twists and turns of Cambodian politics, he was, for the second time, crowned King, a position he retained until his abdication in October 2004 due to ill health.

Sihanouk did an about face on the Khmer Rouge, roundly condemning them as murderers, calling for their leaders to face trial and seeking to exclude them from any role in government.

In his later years, often absent from his country to undergo medical treatment for cancer and a series of mild strokes, Sihanouk was seen less and less by his people.

But to the end he maintained their loyalty and was a vital force for unity in a turbulent part of the world.

He once said it would take a Shakespeare to do literary justice to his reign. "But the tragic hero is not Sihanouk but the people of Cambodia," he said.


Jonathan Head South East Asia correspondent, BBC New

Mercurial, vain, contradictory, with an impossibly twisting career; Sihanouk was all these things, so summing up his legacy is tricky.

He was a very different King from Bhumibol Adulyadej in neighbouring Thailand, who revived a traditional, ritualistic form of monarchy in the post World War II era. Sihanouk chose instead to be a charismatic, autocratic ruler in the style of other post-colonial leaders like Sukarno of Indonesia. There was little democracy in his Cambodia, but there was little anywhere else in South East Asia.

Then there were his constant switches of allegiance, from the West towards China in the 1960s; from suppressing the Khmer Rouge in the 1960s, to allying himself with the movement in the 1970s and 80s. He was at heart a Cambodian nationalist, struggling, and often failing, to protect his small, impoverished country from the storm of the Vietnam War and the pressure from larger neighbours and Cold War superpowers.

He often promised far more than he could deliver. Sihanouk was as much at the mercy of the cruel waves of history that washed over Cambodia as were its people. From the 1960s he believed communist victories were inevitable in South East Asia, and was resigned to working with whatever regimes emerged. He was a survivor, more than a nation-builder.

He did use his authority to play a pivotal role in bringing the warring parties in Cambodia's civil war to the talks that ended the conflict in 1991. And in a country that has lost so much, he was always there, embodying the hope of a better Cambodia, freed from the turmoil of its recent history.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Iban Tracker and Sarawak Rangers: The Brave Few
Posted on September 4, 2012

Despite Sarawak’s official entry to the Malaysian Federation was in July 22,1963, Sarawakians’ contribution for the fight of Independence in Malaya begin as early as 1948. Malaya was under communist threats at that time, with the terrorist seems to have the upper hand in jungle warfare, it’s about time that the British recruited another master of the jungle to fight these bandits as well.

Having lived in jungle environment for hundreds of years, the indigenous people of Iban in Sarawak was seen as an appropriate option to do the job. And so, thousands of Iban men were recruited and sent to combat in hot spots across Malaya. One of them was Awang anak Raweng, the only Malaysian recipient of George Cross during the 12 years conflict which end in 1960.

While tracking the communist terrorist in Kluang on May 27, 1951, he and his patrol were ambushed by some 50 well-armed communist terrorist. During the fierce firefight which have already killed several of the patrol members, Awang managed to rescue a Private named Griff Hughes. Awang, however, was hit on the left thigh and right forearm during the process.

Despite his injuries, Awang remain firm and continue fighting until reinforcement came. While defending his injured colleague, Awang has managed to shot dead several communist insurgents.

Awang was lucky as 21 other Iban Trackers did not came back from their service in Malaya alive. Being buried for many years in various cemetery across the Peninsular Malaysia, their remains were exhumed in 2011 and returned to Sarawak as part of Ops Mai Pulai (Operation Home Coming). They were reburied at a cemetery behind St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching, near the World War II Heroes Memorial.

In 1962, a young Iban man by the name of Kanang anak Langkau has signed in to join the Sarawak Rangers. With Sarawak joining in the Federation, Kanang’s unit was amalgamated into the Malaysian Armed Forces and his unit was known as the Malaysian Ranger Regiment.

As the communist insurgent reinforced and regain their strength back, another insurgencies has started in the late 1960′s. The fighting got fiercer in years to come which peaks in the 1980′s. Kanang rose to fame when his Unit Combat Intelligent Section (UCIS) of the 8th Royal Ranger Regiment (8 RRD) met communist resistance in Tanah Hitam, Perak on February 19, 1980.

← Malaysian Pilgrims Stranded In Mecca
Taiwanese Security Chief Visits Spratly →
Iban Tracker and Sarawak Rangers: The Brave Few
Posted on September 4, 2012

Despite Sarawak’s official entry to the Malaysian Federation was in July 22,1963, Sarawakians’ contribution for the fight of Independence in Malaya begin as early as 1948. Malaya was under communist threats at that time, with the terrorist seems to have the upper hand in jungle warfare, it’s about time that the British recruited another master of the jungle to fight these bandits as well.

Having lived in jungle environment for hundreds of years, the indigenous people of Iban in Sarawak was seen as an appropriate option to do the job. And so, thousands of Iban men were recruited and sent to combat in hot spots accross Malaya. One of them was Awang anak Raweng, the only Malaysian recipient of George Cross during the 12 years conflict which end in 1960.

While tracking the communist terrorist in Kluang on May 27, 1951, he and his patrol were ambushed by some 50 well-armed communist terrorist. During the fierce firefight which have already killed several of the patrol members, Awang managed to rescue a Private named Griff Hughes. Awang, however, was hit on the left thigh and right forearm during the process.

Despite his injuries, Awang remain firm and continue fighting until reinforcement came. While defending his injured colleague, Awang has managed to shot dead several communist insurgents.

Awang was lucky as 21 other Iban Trackers did not came back from their service in Malaya alive. Being buried for many years in various cemetery across the Peninsular Malaysia, their remains were exhumed in 2011 and returned to Sarawak as part of Ops Mai Pulai (Operation Home Coming). They were reburied at a cemetery behind St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching, near the World War II Heroes Memorial.

In 1962, a young Iban man by the name of Kanang anak Langkau has signed in to join the Sarawak Rangers. With Sarawak joining in the Federation, Kanang’s unit was amalgamated into the Malaysian Armed Forces and his unit was known as the Malaysian Ranger Regiment.

As the communist insurgent reinforced and regain their strength back, another insurgencies has started in the late 1960′s. The fighting got fiercer in years to come which peaks in the 1980′s. Kanang rose to fame when his Unit Combat Intelligent Section (UCIS) of the 8th Royal Ranger Regiment (8 RRD) met communist resistance in Tanah Hitam, Perak on February 19, 1980.

With one of his comrade seriously injured and Kanang himself was also seriously injured during the intense firefight, he and his unit has managed to kill 5 communist terrorists. First Warrant Officer Kanang was conferred with the Seri Pahlawan Perkasa (SP) and Pingat Gagah Berani (PGB) medals for his bravery. He was the only MAF serviceman who had ever being conferred with two bravery medals by the Malaysian Government

Kanang: Battle still fresh in my mind

My Star Online, Aug 1, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Thirty-two years have passed since he and his platoon members came face-to-face with the communists in the Perak jungles, but Temenggong Datuk Kanang Langkau remembers the incident as if it happened only yesterday.

He still gets teary-eyed when reminiscing about the Feb 19, 1980 incident, not because of his close shave with death but because of how his teammates had fought for their country.

“I am mighty proud to have been able to serve the country,” he said at the Warriors’ Day celebration. “I fought the communists, so I am disappointed that there are some who glorified the communists.”

Kanang said this in obvious reference to PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu who had allegedly praised communist guerillas over the Bukit Kepong incident.

Back then, Kanang and 30 other men exchanged fire with communist insurgents in the jungles of Ulu Kinta. Two rangers died while another lost his leg. Kanang himself took three rounds.

At yesterday’s celebration, a pantomime was staged in which a section of it was dedicated to the incident involving Kanang and his platoon members.

Asked how he felt being a part of the nation’s history, the 68-year-old Kanang said: “I can never be more proud. But this (fame) and medals are not the reward I expect for my service to the country. I just want the country to be peaceful and the people happy.

“Everytime I look at the Jalur Gemilang, I feel a deep sense of sadness and pride,” he said. “I hope that the younger generation appreciates the peace they enjoy today.”

Hertiage Sabah NGO

Heritage Sabah NGO cites the importance of effective government policy-making to save Sabah’s landmarks and historical sites.


KOTA KINABALU: Heritage Sabah NGO President Richard Nelson Sokial expressed the NGO’s support for the Land and Survey Department’s recent bid to ‘save’ historical structures via 3D modeling.

However, he urged the Government and the public to bear in mind that genuine preservation and promotion of Sabah’s history, culture and identity relies on areas of policy-making and public participation.

“As an NGO that is dedicated towards raising the profile of architectural and cultural heritage conservation, we have been advocating for a collaborative and holistic approach in identifying and protecting areas and aspects of historical and cultural significance across Sabah.

Heritage Sabah believe that the Land and Survey Department’s initiative would open doors to effective dialogue and partnerships between government and the local community to address heritage conservation matters if it is open to the input that can be given by key stakeholders and interest groups in the community,” he said.

“Sokial particularly regards this statement to the Land and Survey Department’s intent to commence their exercise with the Atkinson Clock Tower. He informed that Heritage Sabah has in fact been working closely with the Sabah Museum to monitor recent repairs of the 107-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower.earlier this year and with the strong support of Sabah Museum, have recently been granted the opportunity to conduct a field investigation exercise on the structure of the tower.

“We have actually just completed a 3D model of the clock tower based on measured drawings taken by Heritage Sabah’s volunteers”, says NGO president Richard Nelson Sokial while adding that the NGO is more than happy to share their expertise and resources to contribute in the Land and Survey Department’s efforts if the opportunity arises.

Heritage Sabah finds it encouraging to see government playing their part in heritage conservation and would do all it can to achieve shared goals. In the meantime, the NGO continues to strive to engage more members from the local community to participate in heritage awareness projects that they will be coordinating in the near future.

Nevertheless, Heritage Sabah questions the change of land use of the area surrounding the clock tower from ‘Ridge Conservation Area’ to ‘Commercial Zone’, raising questions about the transparency of zoning demarcations under the purview of various state government departments in Sabah.

“The importance of the Atkinson Clock Tower warrants its protection and the subsequent protection of its immediate surrounding area from unchecked commercial development. Now that the Land and Survey Department has decided to do their own 3D studies of the Atkinson Clock Tower, as their way to ‘save’ heritage buildings, we hope that they will also support our public appeal for the area surrounding the clock tower to be re-gazetted as a historical precinct for Kota Kinabalu city. “


The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited Why It Matters Who Blinked By James A. Nathan and Graham Allison October 11, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited
Why It Matters Who Blinked
By James A. Nathan and Graham Allison
October 11, 2012

James A. Nathan

Graham Allison ("The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50," July/August 2012) seems to believe that U.S. President John F. Kennedy's handling of the Cuban missile crisis was an unalloyed success. He also contends that the Kennedy administration's response to the crisis forms a template for the kind of steadfast resolve that U.S. policymakers should adopt today, specifically with regard to Iran and North Korea. But the Cuban missile crisis was hardly a triumph of presidential fortitude. At the core of Kennedy's strategy was a deal: the United States pledged to remove its missiles from Turkey within six months in exchange for the Soviet Union's withdrawal of its nuclear forces from Cuba.

The Soviet side of the bargain was public, but the central U.S. concession was kept secret. The Kennedy administration feared that it would appear weak if its agreement on the missiles in Turkey came to light. But the missile swap was hardly a mere "sweetener," as Allison claims; it was the main reason the Cuban missile crisis ended peacefully.

The facts of the compromise were long veiled. It was not until 1989 that Kennedy's former speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, confessed that he had edited out the details of the missile swap from the published version of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's diary. It is now clear that President Kennedy engaged in two sets of negotiations: one with Moscow and the other with his ad hoc team of high-ranking advisers, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm). And in his negotiations with the latter, Kennedy made sure that only his few most trusted advisers were privy to the crucial missile concession.

The ExComm barely contemplated a diplomatic solution to the Cuban missile crisis, putting forward a series of military plans ranging from a blockade to a preemptive strike. Unbeknownst to many other members of the ExComm, however, the president, Robert Kennedy, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk were striving for a deal involving the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. The president even authorized Rusk to announce the missile swap at the United Nations if the Soviets would not accept a secret agreement. To Kennedy's relief, Moscow agreed to keep the understanding secret.

Without full knowledge of how the crisis was settled, U.S. policymakers exalted in an apparently unqualified victory. In this view, it was the Kennedy administration's gumption, not its deft diplomacy, that had compelled the Soviets to stand down. "We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked," said Rusk of the crisis' resolution. This false characterization had unfortunate consequences-"resolve" became the watchword of Washington's Cold War policy, and a succession of administrations discarded the classic repertoire of diplomacy: international law, a respect for negotiation, and a prudent definition of the national interest.

Allison's narrative underscores the utility of threats, as long as they are credible. But straining to appear more determined, genuine, and fearsome can lead to miscalculation and heighten danger. Moreover, as Allison correctly notes, threats that are not carried out-even ones that initially appear credible-can seriously undermine policy. Each successive idle threat invites an adversary to test boundaries even more than the last time, and so the consequences of bluffing grow increasingly perilous. Allison is wrong, however, to conclude that it is necessary to risk war to achieve lasting peace.

The real lesson of the Cuban missile crisis is not that the measured use of threats is the key to defusing crises; it is that the essential challenge of crisis resolution is crafting an acceptable compromise to silence the drumbeat of war. This challenge is particularly critical in cases such as Cuba in 1962 and Iran today, when the price of failure is a potentially catastrophic confrontation.

Kennedy well understood this lesson. In nearly every international crisis of his presidency, he opted for diplomacy and dealmaking over force. In June 1961, he reached an agreement with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that maintained Laos' neutrality rather than risk the military action the Joint Chiefs of Staff had advocated. Later, in July 1961, Kennedy signaled to the Soviets that Washington would accept a divided Berlin, thus unwinding a confrontation that was just as dangerous as the Cuban missile crisis. And after the Cuban crisis was resolved, Kennedy began a public campaign to temper the arms race. Yet Allison's account of the crisis as a case study of presidential resolve emphasizes the calculated use of threats over the more fundamental task of structuring a bargain.

Based on his reading of the Cuban missile crisis, Allison suggests that parts of an eventual U.S.-Iranian deal might also have to be kept secret. But surely, it would have been better for the Kennedy administration to reveal the truth about the settlement that ended the crisis; instead, Rusk and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara repeatedly lied to Congress. The long mischaracterization of how the Cuban missile crisis really ended not only taught a generation of U.S. policymakers a faulty lesson about the importance of threats but also damaged the American people's trust in official foreign policy narratives. A public deal to end the United States' protracted confrontation with Iran would be better than a secret one.

Against the backdrop of increasingly stiff U.S. and European sanctions on Iran and an incipient civil war in Syria, the Islamic Republic's sole ally in the Middle East, a diplomatic agreement could still end the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program. It would be folly for Washington to allow misplaced analogies to shape a decision that could lead to a third open-ended war in this still-young century.

JAMES A. NATHAN is Khaled bin Sultan Eminent Scholar in Political Science and International Policy at Auburn University at Montgomery.


James Nathan disputes my interpretation of the central lessons of the Cuban missile crisis. Unfortunately, Nathan misreads my argument. He asserts that I consider presidential resolve and threats to be the essence of successful crisis management, arguing instead for compromise and restraint. In fact, my article contends that all these components are required for success.

President John F. Kennedy's resolution of the 1962 crisis involved a subtle mix of threat and compromise, candor and ambiguity, coercion and inducement. If Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had not accepted Kennedy's demand that he announce the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba within 24 hours, would Kennedy have ordered the air strike he threatened? The answer will never be known, but what seems certain is that Khrushchev would not have removed the missiles without the threat of force.

Resolving today's slow-motion confrontation over Iran's nuclear program will demand a similarly subtle mix. First, the United States needs to accept the irreversible realities of the situation: Tehran already knows how to build centrifuges and enrich uranium, and no U.S. policy is going to change that. Washington should work to place constraints on these activities so as to keep Iran as far from the development of a nuclear weapon as feasible, implement verification and transparency measures that maximize the likelihood that cheating will be discovered, and, finally, unambiguously threaten Tehran with a regime-ending attack in the event that it moves to construct nuclear weapons. Although Nathan may disagree, in my view, unless Iran's leadership believes that the costs of building nuclear weapons will be greater than the benefits those weapons would provide, the Islamic Republic will become a nuclear-armed state.

Ironically, U.S. actions in the Middle East over the past decade have taught regimes in the region both the value of nuclear weapons programs and the dangers of giving them up. Former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, who ended his country's nuclear program under U.S. pressure, wound up on the wrong side of U.S. air strikes last year; former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who didn't even have a nuclear weapons program in 2003, faced a full-scale invasion. As Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, summarized in an address to his people: "Qaddafi gathered up all his nuclear facilities and gave them to the West. And now, you can see the conditions our nation is living in versus their conditions." Given recent examples, Tehran has no reason not to want nuclear weapons if it could acquire them without triggering an attack.

Nathan correctly notes that the Kennedy administration embraced-indeed, exaggerated-news headlines emphasizing the president's steely resolve in forcing Khrushchev to back down. And no one in the administration said anything for many years to cast doubt on Secretary of State Dean Rusk's oft-quoted line, "We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked." But in fact, Kennedy knew better. After a celebratory victory lap, the president identified what he believed was the central lesson of the Cuban missile crisis: "Nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war."

In other words, having peered over the nuclear precipice, Kennedy took away a simple lesson: Never again. He used the crisis as a learning experience to clarify what he called the "rules of the precarious status quo." After October 1962, neither superpower dared surprise the other with provocative actions that might risk nuclear war. Together with the Berlin crisis of 1961, then, the Cuban missile crisis became a turning point in the Cold War. In the immediate aftermath of these events, Washington and Moscow established a hot line for direct communications, signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty to stop nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, and began negotiations that culminated in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which limited the spread of nuclear weapons.

If these were the lessons that Kennedy drew, then why did he keep his concession on the missiles in Turkey a secret? Too many students of foreign policy imagine countries as moving pieces on the chessboard of international politics alone. Rarely do they remember former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill's adage, "All politics is local." Applied to international affairs, O'Neill's maxim can serve as a reminder that U.S. presidents have to play three-dimensional chess. Every move on the horizontal board against an international adversary simultaneously moves a piece on the vertical board of domestic politics. While mistakes on the international chessboard can have major consequences for the world, blunders on the domestic chessboard can remove the leader in question from both games entirely. Kennedy kept the missile concession a secret, as many shrewd politicians would, to protect his seat at the domestic chessboard.

Revisiting the most dangerous moment in recorded history, Nathan is right to stir up debate over the secret nature of the deal to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey. But he is wrong to attribute Kennedy's success purely to concessions made to Moscow, just as he is wrong to mischaracterize my work as attributing the world's escape from nuclear catastrophe in 1962 simply to threats and presidential resolve.

Cuban Missile Crisis - Fifty Years On

Fifty years since Soviets blinked over the Cuban missile crisis

by: Joseph S. Nye
From: The Australian
October 12, 2012 12:00A

THIS month marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. Those 13 days in October 1962 that were probably the closest the world has come to a major nuclear war. President John F. Kennedy had publicly warned the Soviet Union not to introduce offensive missiles into Cuba. But Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to cross Kennedy's red line surreptitiously and confront the Americans with a fait accompli. When an American surveillance plane discovered the missiles, the crisis erupted.

Some of Kennedy's advisers urged an air strike and invasion to destroy the missiles. Kennedy mobilised troops, but also bought time by announcing a naval blockade of Cuba. The crisis subsided when Soviet ships carrying additional missiles turned back, and Khrushchev agreed to remove the existing missiles from the island. As then US Secretary of State Dean Rusk put it: "We were eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked."

At first glance, this was a rational and predictable outcome. The United States had a 17-to-1 advantage in nuclear weaponry. The Soviets were simply outgunned.

And yet the US did not preemptively attack Soviet missile sites, which were relatively vulnerable, because the risk that even one or two of the Soviet missiles would be fired at an American city was enough to deter a first strike. In addition, both Kennedy and Khrushchev feared that rational strategies and careful calculation might spin out of control. Khrushchev offered a vivid metaphor in one of his letters to Kennedy: "We and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war."

In 1987, I was part of a group of scholars that met at Harvard University with Kennedy's surviving advisers to study the crisis. Robert McNamara, Kennedy's secretary of defence, said he became more cautious as the crisis unfolded. At the time, he thought that the probability of nuclear war resulting from the crisis might have been one in 50 (though he rated the risk much higher after he learned in the 1990s that the Soviets had already delivered nuclear weapons to Cuba).

Douglas Dillon, Kennedy's treasury secretary, said he thought that the risk of nuclear war had been about zero. He did not see how the situation could possibly have escalated to nuclear war, and thus had been willing to push the Soviets harder and to take more risks than McNamara was. General Maxwell Taylor, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also believed that the risk of nuclear war was low, and he complained that the US let the Soviet Union off too easily. He felt that the Americans should have removed the Castro regime.

But the risks of losing control of the situation weighed heavily on Kennedy, too, which is why he took a more prudent position than some of his advisers would have liked. The moral of the story is that a little nuclear deterrence goes a long way.

Nonetheless, there are still ambiguities about the missile crisis that make it difficult to attribute the outcome entirely to the nuclear component. The public consensus was that the US won. But how much the US won, and why it won, is hard to determine.

There are at least two possible explanations of the outcome, in addition to Soviet acquiescence to America's superior nuclear firepower. One focuses on the importance of the two superpowers' relative stakes in the crisis: the US not only had a greater stake in neighbouring Cuba than the Soviets did, but could also bring conventional forces to bear. The naval blockade and the possibility of a US invasion strengthened the credibility of American deterrence, placing the psychological burden on the Soviets.

The other explanation questions the very premise that the Cuban missile crisis was an outright US victory. The Americans had three options: a "shoot-out" (bomb the missile sites); a "squeeze out" (blockade Cuba to convince the Soviets to withdraw the missiles); and a "buyout" (give the Soviets something they want).

For a long time, the participants said little about the buyout aspects of the solution. But subsequent evidence suggests that a quiet US promise to remove its obsolete missiles from Turkey and Italy was probably more important than was thought at the time (the US also gave a public assurance that it would not invade Cuba).

We can conclude that nuclear deterrence mattered in the crisis, and that the nuclear dimension certainly figured in Kennedy's thinking. But it was not the ratio of nuclear weapons that mattered so much as the fear that even a few nuclear weapons would wreak intolerable devastation.

How real were these risks? On October 27, 1962, just after Soviet forces in Cuba shot down a US surveillance plane (killing the pilot), a similar plane taking routine air samples near Alaska inadvertently violated Soviet air space in Siberia. Fortunately, it was not shot down. But, even more serious, unbeknownst to the Americans, Soviet forces in Cuba had been instructed to repel a US invasion, and had been authorised to use their tactical nuclear weapons to do so.

It is hard to imagine that such a nuclear attack would have remained merely tactical. Kenneth Waltz, an American scholar, recently published an article entitled "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb". In a rational, predictable world, such an outcome might produce stability. In the real world, the Cuban missile crisis suggests that it might not. As McNamara put it: "We lucked out."

Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard, is the author of The Future of Power

Monday, October 15, 2012

Justice Still Eludes Communist Coup Massacre Victims Michael Vatikiotis - Straits Times | October 08, 2012

Justice Still Eludes Communist Coup Massacre Victims
Michael Vatikiotis - Straits Times | October 08, 2012

Modern Indonesian history is a long tableau of violent struggle, first for freedom, then for power and, over much of the past 40 years, over faith and identity. Most of the victims of this struggle have been ordinary people. Neither a true account of all their suffering, nor justice of any kind, has been granted to any of them.

Yet the victims of the atrocities, relatives or survivors never forget the trauma. All too often, politics is blind to their suffering or the law imposes limits on liability. So when, for instance, survivors of a massacre perpetrated by Dutch colonial soldiers in a Javanese village in 1947 recently brought their case to The Hague, which by coincidence is home to the International Criminal Court, Dutch public prosecutors ruled that the statute of limitations on the atrocity had run out in 1971.

Local villagers allege that 450 people were killed by Dutch colonial troops in the village of Rawagede during the war of independence — the Dutch authorities challenge this and say at most 150 died. All the same, even though a lower court in The Hague ruled in favor of the victims, there will be no justice.

If memories of Indonesia's trauma under Dutch colonial rule can still stir the quest for justice, what about those who went on to suffer after Indonesia gained independence? At long last, there is some hope on the horizon.

A report issued at the end of July by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) of Jakarta analyses the aftermath of the attempted coup in September 1965 that unleashed a ferocious backlash against the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The report recommends that the government launch a national reconciliation process and that the attorney-general prosecute those found to be responsible.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono swiftly lent support to the call for justice and urged the attorney-general to follow up. Yudhoyono is reportedly considering framing a formal national apology for all human rights abuses since 1965 to be announced before he leaves office in 2014.

As many as half a million and possibly up to one million people were killed as the army, supported by local militias, rampaged across the country, torturing and slaughtering anyone identified as even faintly associated with the PKI. Almost half a century later, it is still hard to uncover the truth and despite the country's democratic transition, a culture of silence prevails.

Of course, it is scarcely credible that so many souls are extinguished and no one wants justice for their murder. For more than three decades, the victims suffered in silence under an authoritarian government that was still executing alleged members of the communist party two decades after the coup. Sadly, the quest for justice has not been much easier under democratic rule.

Six years after the downfall of president Suharto, a law was passed on truth and reconciliation. The law fell well short of ensuring either truth or reconciliation because, according to the Bill's provisions, only when the government grants the perpetrators an amnesty can the victims be given compensation. And amnesty is given only after the victims grant forgiveness.

It's hard to forgive when you don't know what happened. Democracy has made little difference to what children are taught in school about the events of 1965, which still focuses on the six generals murdered on the night of Sept 30; nothing is said about the bloody aftermath. Communism may no longer be an ideological force to reckon with, but it remains banned in Indonesia. Attempts to honour some of the dead exhumed from mass graves have been disrupted and human rights activists intimidated.

One would think that with the military stripped of its political power, there would be little impediment to the truth about how special army units distributed weapons and encouraged militia groups and ordinary villagers to bludgeon their neighbors to death.

Not so. The military may be technically relegated to the barracks, but the current president is a former general whose father-in-law, General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, led the special forces units ordered to eliminate the PKI across Java and Bali in 1966. Moves towards addressing the 1965 killings have already galvanized some groups of retired officers to lobby against any move towards prosecution.

Perhaps with more at stake in hiding the truth than the army are some of the country's largest Muslim organizations, which lent a well-documented hand in the slaughter. Such is the nature of power and politics in Indonesia today that it would be a foolish politician who demands they be held accountable - especially as elections approach in 2014.

So even with this latest call for reconciliation and justice, the victims will likely have a long wait. They will most likely die before either truth or justice can be delivered. Move on, let bygones be bygones, they will be told. Nothing has been said or done for so long, why open up old wounds?

So if justice won't be forthcoming at the national level, what are the victims to do? Perhaps they could learn from their neighbors in Timor Leste, where the newly independent government has been similarly reluctant to delve too far into the truth behind more than a quarter century of violence before and during Indonesian rule. There are more than 60 million Javanese, but Timor Leste lost more than 200,000 people, as much as half of its natural population over those years.

Frustrated that a government-backed truth commission led only to whitewash and a meek and muted apology from Indonesia, Timorese communities have developed their own mechanisms for coping with their loss, drawing on local memories and building local memorials. It doesn't compensate them very much or amount to accountability, but it does remind surviving generations of their loss, and hopefully acts as a deterrent.

If only the victims of Java could be permitted even this small gesture of memory. Given prevailing political trends and realities, and recalling recent aborted attempts to recognize those who died, it doesn't seem likely.

The writer is the Asia regional director of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue. His new novel, "The Painter Of Lost Souls," dwells on the victims of the PKI killings in 1965.

Reprinted courtesy of The Straits Times

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Ethiopian hero of the Korean War

An Ethiopian hero of the Korean War
By Alex Last BBC World Service

Sixty years ago, Ethiopia was at war. Not in Africa, but thousands of miles away in Korea. This is the story of one Ethiopian officer who won a US gallantry award.

In 1951, the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to send thousands of troops to fight as part of the American-led UN force supporting South Korea against the communist North and its ally, China.

They were called the Kagnew battalions and were drawn from Haile Selassie's Imperial Bodyguard - Ethiopia's elite troops.

Capt Mamo Habtewold, now 81 years old, was then a young lieutenant in the 3rd Kagnew Battalion. He clearly remembers a send-off from the Emperor himself, as he was about to leave for the other side of the world.

"Always when a battalion went to Korea, he came himself and made a speech and he gave each battalion a flag - and he ordered us to bring that flag back from Korea," Mamo recalls.

When Ethiopia had been invaded by Italy in 1935 Haile Selassie had condemned the League of Nations for its failure to act. Now, as a staunch ally of the US, he was eager to practise what he had preached.

"As you know our King, Haile Selassie, was a great man for collective security. And when the UN asked him for troops for Korea, he accepted without any question," Mamo says.

Mamo was himself keen to go, especially after the first Ethiopian battalion sent to Korea returned in 1953.

"Everyone was boasting when they came back from Korea, so everybody wanted to fight," he says.

The Ethiopians fought as part of the US 7th Division. At the time, the American army had only just started to become racially de-segregated. But for Mamo discrimination was not an issue.

"You know Ethiopia has a 3,000-year history as an independent country. We Ethiopians were proud and boasting that we were Ethiopians. We don't care about any colour. The Americans didn't call us 'Negro' as we would be angry," he says.

And Mamo is proud of their record in Korea.

"We were the best fighters. The three Ethiopian battalions fought 253 battles, and no Ethiopian soldier was taken prisoner in the Korean War," he says.

"That was our Ethiopian motto: 'Never be captured on the war field.'"

That motto was put to severe test.

In 1953, while peace talks dragged on, the two sides hoped to strengthen their negotiating position by battling for control of the barren, rocky hills and ridges which lay in front of the main UN front line.

Some of the hills had nicknames: Old Baldy, T-bone and, most famously, Pork Chop Hill. Defence of this area was assigned to the US 7th Division, which included the Ethiopian Kagnew battalion.

One night in May 1953, Mamo led a small patrol down from his hilltop outpost to scout out the land below. What he didn't know was that his patrol was about to be enveloped in a major Chinese army assault.

"We were 14 Ethiopians and one American in our patrol. It was written later that we were fighting 300 Chinese soldiers - one man against 20," he remembers.

Four members of the patrol were killed, including the American corporal. Everyone else was wounded.

"They tried to take my radio operator prisoner, but I killed the Chinese soldier and saved that man. And one time they came to finish us when we were all wounded, and I was left with one hand grenade and I killed them. It was very hard."

The fighting continued on and off through the night. Cut off, his men wounded, Mamo feared they could not hold out much longer.

"I was wounded several times, I was tired, exhausted and I fell unconscious twice. The most important thing was to find a radio to contact the American artillery. But my three radios were destroyed.

"I gave one soldier my pistol to cover me while I went looking for a radio. I fainted again, and I was afraid I might be captured, I wanted to kill myself. But when I ordered the soldier to give me my pistol back, he refused, and the other soldiers said 'Don't give it to him!'"

So Mamo decided to fight on, after all.

"I just looked for a weapon from one of the dead men, and when the Chinese attacked I would shoot, and when it was quiet, I would look for a radio," he says.

In the end he did find a radio. He called in American artillery which halted the Chinese attacks. Reinforcements got through and under the cover of smoke he and his wounded soldiers were withdrawn. Back at base, Mamo was the only one of his patrol left standing.

"They all went to hospital. I was the only one who went back to the bunker. It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house - that is how I felt. I was so sorry. I was very depressed."

For his actions, he was awarded Ethiopia's highest military honour. The Americans also gave him a Silver Star for gallantry in action.

More than 3,000 Ethiopians fought in the Korean War, more than 120 were killed, more than 500 were wounded. The survivors returned to Addis Ababa as heroes.

"It was really a big day, especially when we came back from Korea, we brought back our dead soldiers. In Addis Ababa it was so crowded. Half of the crowd were weeping, half were celebrating," Mamo says.

After the war, Mamo was promoted to captain. He was forced to leave the army in 1960 in the aftermath of an attempted to coup by members of the Imperial Bodyguard. He went on to have a career as a businessman and administrator.

This year the South Korean government announced it would give pensions to the surviving Ethiopian veterans of the Korean War. Mamo still hopes to return to South Korea one last time and see the place where he became an Ethiopian war hero.

Alex Last's interview with Capt Mamo was broadcast on the BBC World Service's Witness programme. You can download a podcast of the programme or browse the archive.


It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house” - Mamo Habtewold

Selassie's Korean army

Ethiopia sends three 1,200-strong battalions

Soldiers drawn from emperor's imperial bodyguard

First Kagnew battalion arrives in May 1951

Assigned to US 7th Infantry Division

Ethiopians fight in a number of engagements including Battle of Pork Chop Hill

Ethiopian casualties: 121 killed, 536 wounded