Great Read Berlin Embassy by William Russell

Berlin Embassy by William Russell

Five Stars

I like this book a lot. I’ve read it four or five times. Part of the reason is the detail on everyday life in Berlin during the years 1939, 1940, and 1941. When I was researching my first novel, An Honorable German, I read this book on Berlin, among many others, because several chapters take place in the city of my book take place in Berlin and I needed details.

Another reason I like the book is that William Russell, a thoroughly decent and polite young guy from Mississippi, was in Germany studying German. He had very little money and often could afford only one meal a day. Finally, he got taken on as a part-time (later full time) clerk at the American Embassy, one of the reasons being his fluency in German.

If you were young and hip and had a little bit of money you lived around the Alexanderplatz. This is a photograph of the “Alex” taken in 1939. What calamity awaited them.

Russell was not important. Didn’t come from an important family. Had no high-level social contacts, had no money and didn’t know anyone important. Yet he happened to be at the epicenter of calamitous events and watched the Nazis hi-jack Germany and set it on the path to war. Just as important, he realized it which is why he kept notes for this book which appeared in 1941 to great acclaim.


Hitler’s new Reichs Channerllory being built in 1938

Russell has an eye for detail including everyday exchanges he had with people he saw each day such as the Portierfrau for his apartment house. “The postman told me today that you forgot to pay your radio tax last month.”

In Nazi Germany, if you owned a radio you had to pay two marks a month, or .80 cents, to listen since it was public radio, so to speak, and without commercials.

“Tell the postman that I don’t listen to German stations,” Russell said, “Tell him I consider London more accurate.” The Portierfrau laughed, somewhat uneasily.

Germans were forbidden to listen to foreign radio although a huge portion of them listened to the German Service of the BBC to get accurate news. The author speculates that based on his observations 60% to 70% of Germans listened to foreign radio, which is in line with the figures from post-war surveys. Russell also tells us: “Old fashioned headphones, which could be used for extra private listening, were sold out in every German radio shop during the first week of the war.”

Rechts das Brandenburger Tor
Aufnahmedatum: 1939
Aufnahmeort: Berlin
Inventar-Nr.: Hu U1598-1a
Systematik:
Geographie / Europa / Deutschland / Orte / Berlin / Regierungsgeb‰ude / Botschaften

 

The US Embassy in 1939 is on the left in this picture. USA is printed on the roof in an attempt to minimize damage from accidental aerial bombings so the photograph must have been taken after Great Britain and France went to war with Nazi Germany.

The Brandenburg Gate is to the right. Damage sustained by the Embassy during the Battle of Berlin and from aerial bombings proved to be extensive partially as a result of being located so close to Hitler’s bunker (which was a block farther south of the embassy which is to the left in this picture).

The embassy was subsequently demolished.

William Russell later returned to Mississippi. He taught German to many people and encourage young people to learn the language. He died in 2000.

[Berlin], Blücher-Palais, jetzige amerikanische Botschaft am Pariser Platz
1932
Russell actually worked in the visa department located in the US consulate which was a different building. Above is a photograph of the US Embassy from the German National Archive taken in 1932.

Konigsberg First Major Warship Sunk by Air Attack

German light cruiser Konigsberg has the distinction of being the first major warship sent to the bottom by attack by aircraft.

Königsberg_3

light cruiser KMS Konigsberg circa 1935. Official US Navy photo.

On 10 April 1940 during the Norwegian campaign, fifteen FAA (Fleet Air Air of Royal Navy) Skua dive-bombers pounced on KMS Konigsberg tied up to a jetty in Bergen Harbour. All fifteen dived bombed the ship. Three bombs hit the Konigsberg which rolled over and sank. Not one British aircraft was shot down.

She was the first major warship ever to be sunk by air attack.

 

source: Narvik by Peter Dickens

 

 

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KMS Konigsberg taken at Swinemunde, Germany, with a sentry on guard in the foreground. The original photograph, from Office of Naval Intelligence files, was dated 1938. However, it appears to have actually been taken earlier in that decade. Note Königsberg‘s searchlights and torpedo tubes. The light cruiser Leipzig is in the right distance.

One of the Famous Dambusters’ Pilots Was An American

One American Pilot in the RAF Squadron that Bombed Ruhr Dams. they became known as the “Dambuster Squadron”

 

“…chisel-jawed American pilot Joe McCarthy circled over the heart of Nazi Germany’s industrial machine.” (photo taken 1944 courtesy of Joe McCarthy, Jr.)

comment on his American pilot from interview with John “Johnny” Johnson, last survivor of the famous Dambusters from the Bristol Post of 13 May 2013

Photograph of the breached Möhne Dam taken by Flying Officer Jerry Fray of No. 542 Squadron from his Spitfire PR IX, six Barrage balloons are above the dam
Flying Officer Jerry Fray RAF – Chris Staerck (editor), Allied Photo Reconnaissance of World War II (1998)

 

 

Joe McCarthy (right) with his good friend Don Curtin two days after Don had been awarded the DFC in the fall of 1942. Sadly, F/L Donald Joe Curtin DFC and Bar was lost on a raid to Nuremberg on 25 February 1943.

 

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Dambusters American pilot Joe McCarthy

p_joemccarthy1

Then Flight Lieutenant RAF, American Joseph Charles “Joe” McCarthy DSO DFC and BAR, being introduced by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC to His Majesty King George VI after the Dambusters’ Raid.

Comments Charles McCain: “Joe McCarthy had made his way to Canada before the USA became a belligerent in World War Two and joined the Royal Canadian Air force. Many RAF bomber crews were comprised of men from different parts of the empire including the Royal Australia Air Force, Royal New Zealand, etc. So McCarthy was officially in the Royal Canadian Air Force but the only way to know that would have been a small patch on the standard RAF uniform which said, “Canada”.

Also, after they completed training and were dispatched to the manning depots, the men self-selected into their bomber crews. On a specific day, the command would put all the different men in their different specialties in one large hanger and they would mill about until they had found a crew they liked. The higher-ups never got involved.”

Harlo ‘Terry’ Taerum (left), Guy Gibson (centre-front) and Joe McCarthy (right).

As the war went on, however, the Canadian Government insisted that squadrons be formed in which the bombers had all Canadian crews. (All Canadian in armed forces in WW Two were volunteers). Of course, the British complied.

Unlike the other self-governing Dominions of the British Empire, the Canadians didn’t want to mix in their men in either Bomber Command or the Royal Navy. They created their own navy, the Royal Canadian Navy. Unfortunately, without the presence of the highly skilled and trained Royal Navy or Royal Navy Reserve or experienced Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve officers, their navy took several critical years to achieve even the lowest level of competence.

After the war, Joe McCarthy became a Canadian citizen and enjoyed a successful career in the Royal Canadian Air Force. You can read more about him here:

http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/s,joemccarthy.html

 

LEST WE FORGET

133 RAF aircrew participated in the Dambusters attack. Of those, 53 lost their lives–a casualty rate of almost 40 percent. The dead were all young men in the prime of their lives. 

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

From the poem

Here Dead We Lie

by A.E. Housman

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copyright (c) 2018 by Charles McCain. Posted by writer Charles McCain, author of the World War Two naval epic:

An Honorable German.

SAYS NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR NELSON DeMILLE

“A truly epic and stirring tale of war, love, and the sea. An Honorable German is a remarkable debut novel by a writer who…seems he was an eyewitness to the history he portrays in such vivid detail. An original and surprising look at World War II from the other side.”

To purchase a signed and personally inscribed copy of a first edition hardback go here:

https://tinyurl.com/NewcopyfromMcCainAmazon

then page down to seller Charles McCain

copies including Kindle and Nook click here:

http://charlesmccain.com/

 

 

Terror of UBoats Royal Navy Biplane Swordfish

FAMOUS BIPLANE SWORDFISH ENTERED OPERATIONAL SERVICE IN 1936 IT ISN’T FROM WORLD WAR ONE
A FAIREY SWORDFISH IN FLIGHT (TR 1138) Close-up of a Fairey Swordfish Mark II, HS 545 ‘B’, in flight as seen through the struts of another aircraft, probably while serving with No 824 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, 1943-1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188676

 

HMS_Activity

Escort carrier HMS Activity in Firth of Forth 1942

Like a number of escort carriers, HMS Activity was a merchant ship converted to an aircraft carrier. After the war, the landing deck was removed and the ship returned to merchant service. Often these small carriers only carried a handful of Swordfish but aircraft patrolling over convoys proved critical in the Battle of the North Atlantic and the overall war against U-Boats.

While we think of U-boats being sunk by convoy escort ships, almost half of U-Boats sunk in the European Theatre were sunk by U-boats. (Doenitz deployed a handful of U-Boats in and around Singapore).

 

THE BATTLE OF ATLANTIC, 1939-1945 (A 19718) A batman uses signal bats to guide the landing of a rocket-firing Fairey Swordfish of No. 816 Squadron Fleet Air Arm on board HMS TRACKER in the North Atlantic, September-October 1943. Note the rocket projectiles under the wings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186701

 

Swordfish were usually embarked aboard escort carriers on North Atlantic convoy duty. They made excellent U-Boat hunters once the proper type of radar was installed.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 24986) Three rocket projectile Fairey Swordfish during a training flight from St Merryn Royal Naval Air Station This operational squadron was ommanded by Lieutenant Commander P Snow RN. Note the invasion stripes carried for the Normandy landings on the wings and fuselage of the aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016147

 

While originally built as a prototype for the Greek Navy, they turned it down in the mid-30s and Fairey Brothers Aircraft offered it the Royal Navy primarily for use on aircraft carriers. After design changes the plane went into production as the famous Royal Navy Swordfish which served multiple roles: patrol and reconnaissance, torpedo bomber, tactical bomber to support infantry and U-boat hunter/killer. The plane was oddly effective in all of these roles and was used operationally for the entire war.

RAFCC1939-1945 IWMCL2277

Armourers unload 250-lb GP bombs in front of a line of Fairey Swordfish Mark IIIs of No. 119 Squadron RAF, undergoing maintenance at B83/Knokke le Zoute, Belgium. The Squadron flew anti-shipping patrols, principally against German midget submarines, in the North Sea, and off the Dutch coast.

(Photo CL 2277 IWM. Taken by Flt. Lt. B.J. Daventry, Royal Air Force Official Photographer. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

 

IWM 4090 Swordfish_on_HMS_Victorious_before_strike_on_Bismarck

Swordfish torpedo bombers on the after deck of HMS Victorious before the attack on the Bismarck. Date 24 May 1941. This is photograph A 4090 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums now in the public domain.